2019 | Schools

Council Says After-School Security Measures Lacking

Recent safety upgrades haven't included extracurricular programs

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The Montgomery County Council's Public Safety and Education and Culture Committees hold a joint meeting Monday afternoon in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

Despite a recent focus on increasing student safety measures, the county’s public schools are still lacking in after-school protections, County Council members said Monday.

During a joint meeting of the County Council’s Public Safety and Education and Culture committees, council member Gabe Albornoz said policies are not in place to ensure students in on-site extracurricular activities are safe.

“After that last bell is rung, hundreds if not thousands of students remain in school, which is what we want,” said Albornoz, D-At-Large. “I have observed many of those well thought out policies end, and that is a byproduct of successfully having more students enrolled in extracurricular and enrichment activities.”

The school system’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman said he has heard the same concerns from principals and hopes to work with police, council staff and the county executive’s office to draft policies on after-hours protection.

The school system has been upgrading security systems, including equipping all 1,300 of its buses with speed cameras to deter drivers from passing stopped school buses, and installing visitor screening software at all schools.

Eight schools were recently outfitted with security vestibules, which act as a main entry point for visitors.

County efforts to reinvigorate safety protocols have been slowed as school districts across the country looked to implement safety programs and buy equipment after a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year, Montgomery schools’ Chief Safety Officer Ed Clarke said.

“When (the shooting) in Parkland, Florida, happened, tragically the industry was upended,” Clarke said. “It’s supply and demand and we’re starting to catch up.”

Within the next three years, the school system hopes to finish installing security cameras at 22 elementary schools, upgrade two-way radio communication infrastructure for security staff and administration and install new “buzzer systems” that allow community members access to school facilities after being granted entry by a staff member inside the building. Clarke said he had hoped these initiatives would have been completed already.

School officials are also exploring the idea of issuing electronic keys to some staff and county police that would allow them to remotely unlock doors for quicker entry during emergencies.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com