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Safety and security upgrades needed for Joppatowne High [Letter]

The Aegis

The following open letter from the Joppa Heritage and Development Committee was read during Monday’s meeting of the Harford County Board of Education. Editor

To: County Executive Glassman, Superintendent Canavan, the Harford County Council, the Harford County Public School Board

Recent national and local events, specifically the incident within Joppatowne High School on Tuesday, March 13, have spurred members of the Joppa community to question the safety of students in our schools. We believe that neither parent nor student should hold any doubt on this topic at all. We believe that you should, and ask that you do, respond to such questions quickly, not just with answers, but with action.

As Governor Hogan said in his comments on Feb. 28, “Government at all levels is grappling with what more can be done to keep our kids safe.” We hope that we can make clear some of the ways that the government can help to keep our kids safe in their school buildings. Students, teachers, parents and administrators must work together to craft a reasonable plan to appropriately and affordably increase school safety. In light of the governor’s announcement to commit $125 million to school safety (in addition to ongoing spending initiatives), and after discussion with Joppatowne High School staff, students, and parents, we present the following suggestions and requests.

We request that Harford County Public Schools policy changes to require all doors of all schools that are not the main entrance and exit to the school to have alarms that will alert those in the building when they are open during the school day. We believe this will allow a quicker time to respond to possible threats to the school population.

The aforementioned policy change will likely require ways to deactivate the alarms for certain staff members (custodians, gym teachers, etc.) and policy will have to change so that the main doors are used for all other building entrances and exits except in the case of emergency.

Staff members of Joppatowne High School have, for five years, continuously requested ALICE (Active Shooter Response Training) for teachers, staff and students. We join them in this request.

We urge the county executive to release the funds for the already approved renovation of Joppatowne High School so that the school’s office can move to its new location and so that construction workers can build a vestibule which will eliminate the possibility of individuals coming into the building, but not into the office.

We ask that the school board spend funds to allow for a live feed of the music wing exterior door at Joppatowne High School so that school administrators can remain aware of activity outside that door.

We request that school board place more emphasis on the Citizen Advisory Committee, and utilize that committee to analyze the efficacy and affordability of requests for metal detectors by Joppatowne High School students in addition to other ideas they may have.

We request more communication and more opportunities to share feedback and concern directly to the HCPS Board of Education about these issues specifically (and not just at general board meetings).

Although the county budget allocation to HCPS cannot direct how the school board spends its money, we request that if the county does give additional money to our schools with the intention of increasing safety and security in our schools, that the school board honors that intention.

We intend to take an active role in the safety of our schools. We know the physical and fiscal obstacles that stand in the way, but we ask you to meet our requests in this endeavor for the safety of all of our students and staff in all Harford County Public Schools.

Thank you for your support,

The Joppa Development and Heritage Corporation

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