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Schools initiate lockdown status

October 23, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools went into a "modified lockdown" Tuesday as a precaution after a fatal shooting in Montgomery County, Md., that may have been part of a recent killing spree.

Exterior doors were locked and students were not allowed to go outside for physical education class or recess.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she consulted with School Board President Edward Forrest and Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook after hearing of the latest shooting. The new security measure will be in place the rest of the week.

The mandate did not apply to outside after-school activities and sports, which are voluntary and not part of the curriculum.

"This is democracy. Parents can decide," Morgan said.

Local police were asked to patrol the schools more frequently.

The school system wanted to be careful, but not excessively so, Morgan said, adding, "Our business is protecting kids."

Frederick County Public Schools turned to similar security measures Tuesday.

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"We're secured, but we're not in lockdown," said Judith Ricketts, an administrative director for the board of education. "The main door to (each) building is open."

Ricketts said some schools in the southern part of the county - including Green Valley Elementary School in Monrovia, and Urbana Elementary School and Windsor Knolls Middle School in Ijamsville - chose to lock down.

The district allowed planned after-school activities to continue, but postponed all field trips to the Washington, D.C., area.

Since Oct. 3, Washington County school officials have reviewed each field trip request as it came in, allowing the ones that appeared to be safe.

The Jefferson County, W.Va., school system did not lock down schools Tuesday, but still is prohibiting all field trips to or near Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, Associate Superintendent Beverly Hughes said.

School officials met again Monday with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department to review security, Hughes said.

Superintendent R. Steven Nichols released a letter last week assuring parents that the district has a lockdown procedure ready should it be needed, Hughes said.

Washington County Public Schools sent a letter from Morgan home with students Tuesday. It read, in part, "I see no reason for us to overreact and curtail teaching and learning activities. It is our intent to maintain normal routines, to the extent possible, using heightened awareness and common sense."

Morgan said during an interview Tuesday afternoon that kids "look to adults to give them a sense of security and a sense of confidence."

"Give them straight talk," acknowledging that there are "bad things in the world," Morgan said.

Officials in Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia and the Chambersburg, Greencastle-Antrim, Central Fulton and Southern Fulton districts in Pennsylvania did not report any extra security at their schools Tuesday.

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