MPS school secretary shares efforts to keep kids safe following board vote | News
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA)- The Montgomery County Board of Education called an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss safety concerns in response to the mass shooting that left 26 dead at a Connecticut elementary school.
MPS Superintendent Barbara Thompson says her plan revolves around three safety issues including the securing of entrances to school buildings, weapon and drug free campuses, and proper employee training.
Superintendent Thompson asked the board to expedite the purchase of security equipment for schools that do not currently have magnetic doors. Along with this system comes a call box that screens visitors at the door before they're allowed inside.
You could call Nora Swedenburg the gatekeeper at Vaughn Road Elementary School.
"We open the door."
It's a responsibility she doesn't take lightly, never knowing who could be on the other side.
"We have to protect these kids."
And they are. Even while our news crews were there an administrator alerted the front office to a suspicious person walking behind the school.
Swedenburg immediately went to her computer to check the security cameras.
"These are our cameras that are outside the building."
All the while, she was ready for anyone who came to the front door, where a gray call box with a camera greets visitors.
MPS officials want them at every school. They're making sure that happens by next semester.
"We'd like to assure parents right away that we're doing this as quickly as possible," says MPS Superintendent Barbara Thompson.
"If there's someone who has ill feelings or is upset or has a problem with a teacher or whatever, we're gonna try to screen them before they get in the building," says Swedenburg.
While the devices may cost the school system thousands of dollars, the peace of mind for folks like Swedenburg and school parents is priceless.
"About a dozen of our schools lack magnetic locks that allow personnel to screen individuals before they are allowed in the building," Thompson said. "Although we have been adding three or four each year, I asked the board to authorize an emergency declaration today so that the work can be completed as soon as possible."
Thompson sought board approval for the measure allowing the school system to go ahead and get the security measures in place in each school during the Christmas break. That would require opting out of a bid process.
The money for the equipment would come from operational funds and would total approximately $50,000. Thompson said plans were already in place to fit each of the system's 55 schools, but this meeting was about speeding up the process.
The installation would work out to approximately $3,500 per school and would be completed by pre-approved vendors.
Thompson said two additional security upgrades will be in place around the new year. The school system has acquired its own K-9 unit with the ability to detect gun power and drugs. The dog, named Harley, will give the school system more flexibility to conduct random searches, MPS officials said.
In addition, the district will move to a central monitoring system so schools can be monitored around the clock for security breaches, fire, and energy use using cameras and sensors.
"We have added both passive and active security measures to our schools over the last few years," Thompson said. "We work very closely with the Montgomery Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, and the city/county EMA. We also have our own security personnel – many are retired law officers and military. We have installed cameras, magnetic locks, and other active measures."
While the Montgomery Police Department does not discuss specific safety plans, it will confirm that it has an increased presence at the schools.
The district is also working to train school employees.
MPS security is in the process of producing a video training series for teachers, staff and administrators to provide information on what to do in emergencies ranging from gas leaks, to tornados to intruders. Crisis Management Handbooks are also being reviewed.
The system has a counseling response team of 25 with specialized training each year to help children and staff cope with crisis. Students are required to wear uniforms which allow teachers and administrators to identify trespassers. Schools have required safety drills and MPS administrators annually update evacuation and safety plans that are approved by the state Department of Education.
Copyright 2012 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.
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