Ulman: County to Invest $2 Million in School Security 'Immediately'
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman was joined by local leaders at an event on Monday to release the final report of the joint task force on school safety.
County Executive Ken Ulman said Monday that $2 million would be spent to update security measures at Howard County schools, an initiative taken following the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut. In addition, a task force recommended emergency response training and measures to create a safe climate for students and help identify children who may be suffering from issues.
“All of what we’re doing is trying to put together the best possible group of policies to diminish the chances that we have a tragedy in Howard County,” said Ulman.
The recommendations were released Monday at an event at Thunder Hill Elementary in Columbia. and were prepared by a joint task force on school safety.
By the end of this year, the county plans on installing buzzers, cameras and badging systems in all elementary and middle schools at a cost of $750,000, according to the action plan distributed at the event. The plan states about 50 schools need a buzzer system and another 40 need a badging policy. The county will use state funds to pay for the improvements, according to the action plan.
“In terms of the physical security, it’s about controlling access,” said Howard County Police Chief William McMahon. “We don’t want people to wander around our schools unchecked.”
Each visitor to schools will be required to buzz in at the main entrance, and will receive a badge identifying them, according to the plan. The entry process takes about 10 seconds, said John Birus, the principal at Thunder Hill Elementary School, which has the security measures in place.
“It doesn’t take very long at all,” said Birus. “It’s a measure of comfort for the parents to know their children are being protected by the measures we have in place.”
In addition, the following other recommendations are included in the action plan:
- Expand exterior camera surveillance
- Provide police access to security cameras during emergencies
- Expand the number of securable interior spaces for students and staff to congregate in during a lockdown, at a cost of around $1 million from the capital planning budget
- Standardize school security protocols and train staff on them
- Study feasibility and cost of installing cameras on school buses
- Improve training drills
- Promote a healthy school culture through collaboration with community organizations
- Improve mental health communication
The joint task force on school safety was formed in the wake of the Newtown school shooting and its mission was to examine security measures in county schools.
Their work, over the past three months, culminated in the report released Monday.
“The report does confirm we are indeed safe within our schools,” said Superintendent Renee Foose. She said current measures are effective, but they can be improved.
“I’m committed to quickly implementing as many recommendations and strategies as we can to ensure our students and our staff are safe in our schools,” said Foose.
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