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Washington County Board of Education discusses school security options

Schools superintendent cautioned members about balancing school security with providing a welcoming environment for students

January 29, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Adjusting classroom locks and school security cameras, providing bulletproof windows or windows with grids, and installing security fencing were among the school security ideas discussed Tuesday morning during a school board work session.

Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox cautioned board members about balancing school security with providing a welcoming environment for students.

Among the more pressing things the school system needs to do is change locks on some classroom doors so teachers can lock their classrooms from the inside, Wilcox said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

Now, some doors can only be locked using a key in the doorknob on the outside of the classroom door, said Steve Ganley, the school system’s safety and security manager.

Another immediate need is to adjust and add exterior security cameras so that school staff can better see who is trying to gain entry to schools, Wilcox said.

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Wilcox said he will probably send the Washington County Commissioners and County Administrator Greg Murray a letter this week listing some projects with which the school system could use financial help.

Wilcox said Murray told him he was approached by some commissioners to see what the commissioners could do to help with school security.

The work session about school security was held in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A man with a semi-automatic rifle broke into the school and killed 20 children and six adults.

The killings occurred on a Friday. The following week, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Hagerstown Police Department sent officers to several Washington County Public Schools to reassure the local community.

During Tuesday’s work session, the school board received an update on school security from Ganley.

The school system has seven sworn police offices who serve as school resource officers. The officers each have an office at a different school, but can be called to any school to offer assistance, Ganley said after the meeting.

The sheriff’s department plans to provide another school resource officer for next school year, school system officials said.

The school system pays the school resource officers’ salaries, while the county or city pays for the officers’ equipment, Wilcox said.

School board member Donna Brightman suggested the school system do a cost analysis of bulletproof glass versus windows containing a grid system.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer said school system officials might want to consider security fencing when building future schools.

While school safety is the top priority, Wilcox said, there is a fine line between providing an open, inviting place for students and sending students another message.

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