Howard poised to double funds for school security

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Following a closed-door meeting Friday on security in Howard County schools, County Executive Allan Kittleman and three County Council members have added an additional $1.4 million to the county’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Democrats Mary Kay Sigaty and Jon Weinstein and Republican Greg Fox co-sponsored an amendment to add the one-time funds to the county’s proposed capital budget, which is used for construction and similar projects.

The money is on top of $1.1 million in capital funds proposed for security projects at the county’s high schools as well as money to double the number of school resource officers in middle schools.

Superintendent Michael Martirano recommended in a May 18 memo to the Board of Education that $1.4 million be put toward “external security related capital projects” at four elementary schools and one middle school.

Citing safety concerns, school and county officials declined to specify which schools were in line for the money or details of the security projects.

School board members and Martirano met with the County Council on security funding on Friday, the same day 10 people were fatally shot in a Texas high school and a national debate over school safety was renewed.

Friday’s session was closed to the public because of security concerns as officials discussed specific vulnerabilities in schools. Following the meeting, Kittleman said he spoke with the superintendent’s office about what additional money may be needed to enhance facilities’ security. The school system sent a request for the funding to Kittleman on Friday.

“We hear about what happens around the county and so we want to make sure our schools are as safe as possible,” Kittleman said. “If it involves the safety and security of our children and teachers, I’m all there.”

The five schools slated to receive the $1.4 million have projects that have been on the school system’s systemic renovation list for several years, according to Martirano’s memo.

Kittleman reached out to council members about the budget amendment Monday. Councilman Calvin Ball, who is not yet a co-sponsor of the amendment, said he is dedicated to keeping students safe, and will consider whether to add his name to the amendment.

The funds are a late addition to the county executive’s proposed $164.7 million capital budget, scheduled to be voted on by the council on May 31.

School officials, including director of security, emergency preparedness and response Tom McNeil, will continue assessments of school facilities over the summer to determine further security needs, which may include additional surveillance cameras, radios and locks, according to the memo.

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