Montgomery leaders move decisively on school security -- Gazette.Net


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School system finds funding to enhance school security

The Montgomery County Board of Education last week rearranged its capital budget to speed up the installation of access control systems in 26 elementary schools that were not expected to receive the upgrades until next year. The move has several things that county parents and taxpayers should cheer.

For one, it showed a county agency can move quickly when presented with a problem. The horrifying incident in Newtown, Conn., rightfully has rattled parents all across the country. They want to know that children are safe — now.

Too often we hear how solutions have to wait until the start of another budget cycle. Instead, the school board recognized a problem and found a solution.

For another, it showed some creativity on the school board’s part. Again, too often we hear how bureaucracy holds up decisive action. In the case of the schools’ control systems, the school system worked with an existing contractor to expand the scope of work.

The board’s decision means $364,000 will be moved around in the capital budget. That’s not an insignificant sum, but one that the school system should deal with easily. Though the school board handled the budgetary maneuvers, they came a day after the Montgomery County Council requested the board alter its budget. The 2014 election season will heat up soon and voters can expect political jiu-jitsu as candidates vie for credit. It doesn’t matter who wants credit; what’s important is that the security systems will be installed.

The new equipment means office staff can check surveillance cameras and buzz in visitors remotely. The equipment could have little effect protecting the children in classroom trailers, and our leaders should contemplate security before they construct another portable.

And thinking about the tragedy in Newtown, one might question how such a buzzer system might have prevented Adam Lanza in the pursuit of his carnage. Sandy Hook Elementary School had a similar system. Can any system prevent a heavily armed, determined gunman?

Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr addressed this issue when he met with editors and reporters of The Gazette earlier this month.

“I don’t know that a massive investment or a significant reallocation of funds would all of a sudden make our schools that much more safer than they already are because of all the measures that are already in place,” Starr said. Teachers and staff train for these kinds of horrors, and that training may mean more to lives saved than capital improvements.

Still, that buzzer at a school’s front door symbolizes that we cherish our children and will do what we can to keep them safe.