Board of Education gets wide-ranging security report

January 10, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Ideas in a school system security report presented Tuesday night ranged from "unrealistic" to "already in progress."

Washington County Public Schools officials presented the school security cross-functional team report during a Board of Education business meeting. The verbal report was based on recommendations received from a task force of about 50 people, including parents, law-enforcement officials, community security experts and school personnel.

A written report was not yet completed, said Mike Markoe, acting assistant to the superintendent for systemwide improvement, efficiency and accountability. He said it is in draft form and was expected to be completed next week.

Markoe said recommendations in the report aimed at balancing schools' needs for security, while also being a "friendly, welcoming atmosphere."

"We don't want our schools to be prisons," he said.

Many of the task force initiatives have been initiated, he said. These would be low- or no-cost items, while other more-expensive security recommendations would need school board approval.


One item officials have implemented is assessing all schools and identifying potential risks. Steve Ganley, safety and security specialist/risk manager, said he has been visiting schools and speaking with administrators, staff and students about security at their schools.

Officials also are developing procedures for conducting daily building checks, establishing specific security measures for different events and time periods, providing training for new security systems and reducing isolated areas where perpetrators could hide.

Officials also have increased collaboration with local law enforcement, Markoe said.

A number of other items are set to be completed sometime this year, according to the report to the board.

Those include completing security surveys at each school, developing a security template for administrators, collecting data on who is entering buildings, developing uniform access procedures for all school visitors and training resource officers to interact and work effectively with students, according to the presentation.

Other recommendations had undetermined deadlines for completion. Those items were the more-costly ideas for securing the county's schools. The board was told those had "future" completion dates.

Some of those recommendations were to staff all middle and high schools with a resource officer, eliminate portable classrooms, explore the possibility of a silent alarm, and fence in portable areas.

Markoe called the recommendations a "good starting point."

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she expects that a few more security task force meetings will be planned this year to review progress being made on the recommendations.

Know More

The issue: Washington County Public Schools formed a school security cross-functional team to brainstorm ways to improve safety at the county's schools and to prioritize security needs.

What's new: Schools officials presented a report Tuesday with recommendations from that task force. Some of the ideas already have been implemented.

What's next: A written report should be complete by next week. School officials believe the task force will meet later this year to review progress.

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