To ensure student safety in Prince George’s County Public Schools, the school system is beefing up security by adding electronic safety devices to all schools and practicing emergency protocols.
The school system is investing $7.5 million in devices such as surveillance cameras, electronic entry and panic buttons, and a system for alerting authorities in an emergency situation for its 205 school facilities, said Michael Blow, director of security for Prince George’s County Public Schools.
PTO President Dawn Wampler of Heather Hills Elementary School in Bowie said the new measures are a good step for improving school security, as county schools don’t appear to be designed in a way that allows good supervision of the buildings.
“I know that security issues are something that has been very important to the staff,” Wampler said. “I’m glad that the county is actually being proactive in making some changes.”
Because of school size and layout, some schools will take longer than others to get physical security enhancements. This summer, Blow said officials did a pre-assessment on the schools to see which would be easier to do based on the building’s age, size and layout.
“It won’t happen by the time school starts, but by the time school starts we will be well underway,” Blow said.
The installments will begin Aug. 1 and be done by the end of the school year, he said.
While about 150 of the schools have surveillance cameras, about a quarter of county schools still do not, Blow said.
The school system has been authorized to have supervisory personnel oversee security staff at all of the schools and the security staff’s job will be to make sure staff are in the appropriate places and to support the principals, Blow said.
There was also a large-scale active shooter drill July 19 at High Point High School in Beltsville, with observers from the school system and law enforcement personnel. Blow says the schools system plans to partner with law enforcement and fire safety at least three times in different locations throughout the year to ensure school officials and public safety personnel get the opportunity to practice for crises together.
Prince George’s County Public Schools Security is also in the infancy of planning quarterly lockdown drills to make sure everyone has a basic understanding of the appropriate responses if an incident occurs, Blow said.
Segun Eubanks, school board chairman, said during the spring security staff worked closely with law enforcement partners to make recommendations to the board for expanded security measures, such as the panic buttons and electronic entry.
“I believe these measures will greatly improve safety and peace of mind for both students and staff,” Eubanks said. “After we have had the opportunity to see these new measures in action, we will see what additional improvements need to be made.”