MPS Adds Extra Security After Newtown Tragedy

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By Jessica Gertler

From Montgomery -- The school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has schools across the nation reexamining their security measures including Montgomery Public Schools.

Superintendent Barbara Thompson says about a dozen schools do not have magnetic locks on their outside doors, and while she had plans of changing that, she he says after seeing what happened in Newtown, the work needs to be done immediately.

A tragedy that no school ever wants to encounter. A scene that sent many schools to the drawing board to make sure their safety plans were in place including the Montgomery County School Board.

Board members voted to add magnetic doors like the ones at Vaughn Road Elementary to every school in the district.

"Obviously the world is changing in terms of who comes in the building, and access is important. That's why we are expediting this to make sure that's in place," says Thompson.

The doors will allow the schools to have controlled access. Meaning before you can go inside the school, you'd have to ring the buzzer and talk with someone in the office through an intercom system.

The work will cost around $50,000 and will be taken out of operational funds.

A measure that many parents agree is necessary.

"I think you do try to do everything you can to keep the kids safe, and I think it's the obligation of the district," says parent Carina Barnum.

"I actually was here last week and came up to visit my son's teacher, and I hit the buzzer and that made me feel good," says parent Kerrigan Womack. "But even in that case, that didn't stop anything. There's got to be more stuff done"

The board also agreed to other safety upgrades. Thompson says early next year, the school system will be adding its own K-9 unit to detect gun powder and drugs. In the coming weeks, a central surveillance system will be installed.

"At my office, I can click on an icon and look at any building in the district without going there. We think that kind of accessibility is important," says Thompson.

Thompson says the schools are continuing to work every day to keep the schools drug and weapon free.

Thompson says right now, there are additional security officers and trained personnel in the schools, but says she didn't know the exact number that they've added.



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