When visitors walked up the front door at many of the school buildings in Carroll County on the first day of classes, they were met with a newly installed multi-layer security system designed to keep students safer.
About 20 schools across the district Monday had a new visitor management system installed, Supervisor of Security Larry Faries said. The electronic system issues the visitor with a badge.
Over the last year, the school system also equipped most schools with an access control system, a camera and buzzer allowing visitors to enter the building. However, newer schools built in the last 10 years were already equipped with access control systems.
The new system was implemented following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when 20 children and six staff were killed in Newtown, Connecticut before the gunman took his own life.
"We have been really fortunate up here," Faries said. "People have been cooperating, and thank goodness we have never had to deal with the worst-case scenario."
But after the shooting, Carroll County Public Schools followed suit with other school districts and created a committee to study the security needs in the district.
The school system paid an outside contractor to do an assessment of the school's security system from a sampling of schools, Faries said.
"Their recommendations were for us to control access to the building, especially the entrance, and train all of our employees on a security protocol," Faries said.
The school system then began implementation of a $1.2 million security system funded through federal, state and local agencies, Faries said.
Under the new system, visitors push a buzzer to get in to the building. If the visitor is someone unfamiliar, staff may require the visitor to show their identification card to a video camera set up outside the building, Faries said.
A staff member will then open the door and escort the visitor to the school's central office. The visitor must present an identification card, preferably a driver's license, which is scanned in to the visitor management system, Faries said.
The system checks for possible red flags, such as the visitor being a registered sex offender.
"Most of the time we are aware if a parent is on the registry," Faries said. "Schools get copies every week updated of who is on the registry in Carroll County and it is sent out to the administrators."
Typically, before the year starts, a parent, or family member who is a registered offender has already spoken with the administrators at the school and understands the process for getting special permission to come in the building, Faries said.
Once a visitor is cleared to go in the building, they receive a printed pass which is good for a single school day, Faries said.
Each pass has a white sticker. At the end of a school day, the sticker eventually turns red with the word "stop" on it to prevent visitors from reusing badges, he said.
"We got trained on it an hour ago," North Carroll Assistant Principal Sharon Lilly said, a little before noon Monday. "Other schools outside of the county have been doing this for a while."
According to Lilly, North Carroll Middle School can see more than a dozen visitors per day if there is a special event on campus or a teacher who needs volunteers.
This summer, about 3,000 school system faculty and staff were trained on the procedure if there is an active assailant on a school grounds, Faries said. He said he hopes to have another 400 staffers trained by the beginning of September.
"The training has been quite a task," Faries said. "We call it guarding the target. It's not 100 percent fool proof — proven at Sandy Hook — but the most important part of the whole system is saving your people and knowing what's going on in the whole building."
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