Superintendent Jack Smith this week wrote a message to the community about emergency preparedness, in the wake of the high school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida.

He explained that Montgomery County Public Schools requires schools to conduct drills to practice lockdowns, sheltering in place, evacuations and severe weather responses. He noted that sworn police officers offer security at schools through the school resource officer program. And he mentioned that MCPS has thousands of cameras at its schools, along with systems designed for security at building entrances.

“Most importantly, MCPS has engaged teachers and administrators who are committed to providing students with a safe and welcoming learning environment,” he wrote. “These employees, in conjunction with security personnel, ensure that while education is our top priority, safety remains our first priority.”

However, he said tragedies like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School can cause fear. School counselors are available to help students and staff deal with the emotions they are experiencing, he wrote.

A couple of frightening incidents have also taken place within MCPS over the past few days. On Thursday, an 18-year-old student was charged with bringing a loaded handgun to Clarksburg High School. Then, on Friday, police learned of a social media threat against Northwest High School in Germantown. Police have arrested a 15-year-old student in connection with the online threat.

More information about how MCPS prepares for emergencies is available online. Smith also pointed parents to a list of online resources for discussing tragedies and violence with their children.

MCDOT asks students to help discourage districted driving

The county is asking MCPS students to come up with a creative way of discouraging distracted driving and walking.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has announced a contest challenging students to create a 30- to 60-second public service announcement or piece of artwork about maintaining focus while in motion. The first 20 entrants—who follow the directions—will receive a free movie ticket, according to MCDOT. Contest winners could receive $500 for college tuition or a $100 gift card for Chick-fil-A or Chipotle.

Students must submit their entries by March 3. More information and the entry form are available online.

Scientist uses slime to teach youngsters about medical science

A MedImmune scientist on Friday took a break from biotechnology research to teach children about how medicine is made.

The scientist, Ryan Cummings, visited the Gaithersburg biotech company’s on-site child care center as part of MedImmune’s visiting scientist program. He used glow-in-the-dark slime to teach children about making pharmaceuticals, a company spokesman said.

A MedImmune scientist uses colorful slime to teach a lesson about medical science. Via MedImmune.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at