- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The week following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was not an easy one for Calvert County Public Schools.
At Thursday’s Calvert County Board of Education meeting, CCPS Executive Director of Administration Kim Roof and Director of School Construction George Leah highlighted some of what the school system is considering as a response to the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook.
Roof said in the week following the shooting, she and Community Resource & School Safety Specialist Larry Titus were in contact with law enforcement “sometimes hour by hour.”
She said on the Monday morning following the shooting, almost every school held a morning meeting to discuss school safety.
Roof said she and Titus also have been visiting each school to discuss potential emergency plans, which Roof said each school has and reviews with law enforcement annually.
“We did the things we need to do from a school perspective,” she said.
Roof said the school system has reviewed the idea of lockable classrooms for a while, and now is also considering options like swipe cards to enter buildings and surveillance cameras in and around school facilities,
She said some of the options the school system is looking into are considered part of a long-term plan “because we can’t just build something and we can’t just change something.”
Leah said when Barstow Elementary School was built in 2008, it was designed so the main school facility could not be entered without passing through the front office. Even so, Leah pointed out that a determined enough person could charge through the main office without being stopped.
“Never did I think I’d ever be in a position to even answer some of these things. I can’t even fathom some of what’s happened in the past,” Leah said.
Leah said multiple Maryland public school systems were working together to consider extra security measures the schools could take. He said the plan was to ultimately present their ideas to the state government “in the hopes that some monies will start to trickle down.”
Leah said he would not be surprised to see new school security requirements mandated from the state.
“At some point, the state will say, ‘We’ve got to do something,’” he said.
Leah said right now, the schools are looking into how to utilize what they already have, and may start reviewing their emergency plans similarly to fire drills.
He said his department also will be looking into security improvements that could be done to the interior and exterior of the buildings. He said even if a stranger couldn’t be stopped from entering a building, at least measures could be taken to slow him or her down.
Roof said even if day-to-day life in the schools appears the same to students and their families, that doesn’t mean things haven’t been ramped up behind the scenes.
“Sometimes the changes might not be visible to the average person,” Roof said.
CCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said there did seem to be a consensus among educators within the school system that only members of law enforcement should be allowed to have loaded weapons in or near schools. Smith said each high school has its own police liaison and elementary and middle schools worked closely with the Maryland State Police Department.
Nonetheless, Smith suggested to the board that he write a letter on its behalf requesting extra funding of up to $600,000 from the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners for school safety interventions. The board of education agreed to this initiative.
Board of education member Tracy McGuire said while she knew the school system would always do everything it could to keep students safe, “the world can be a dangerous place.”