Germantown officials plan security changes

Student safety takes priority over visitor inconvenience

Jan. 15, 2013

Germantown - Building security procedures at the district's six schools were discussed Monday by Germantown district officials, and changes could be ahead in the near future. The topic was timely on the one-month anniversary of the tragedy in Connecticut.

District Administrator Sue Borden said the goal is to have a welcoming, inviting presence for visitors at each school. At the same time, she said, vigilance is important.

The board's Building Committee has been reviewing the district's existing building security policy. Board member Bruce Warnimont, who chairs the committee, said Monday that recommended changes could be coming in the near future.

"We want to be working with a very comprehensive plan so that we can address safety and security," Warnimont said. "Some people might feel inconvenienced or even slighted by some of the (recommended) changes, but it's important that we put the protection of students, staff and others first."

There were no specific recommendations discussed at Monday's meeting. Comparing the plan under review to police operations, Borden said not all aspects will be revealed to the public in the interest of maintaining safe and secure facilities.

"Schools have to be cognizant that not every single strategy will be revealed to everyone," Borden said.

In the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Borden sent a letter to parents, outlining how Germantown handles security under an existing board policy. The contents of the letter were shared with board members as an informational item at Monday's meeting.

The district does already have a plan in place that will likely be refined with the additional components under review by the Building Committee.

Under the current plan, staff uses a school safety and response manual that details procedures for a number of types of emergencies. The plan also states staff members receive continual training for such procedures as lockdown drills and fire drills.

During the regular school day, each school is locked. Visitors can only enter by being buzzed in by a staff member in the school office. Staff is able to enter other areas of each building with preprogrammed security cards.

All visitors, including people who frequently visit schools, are required to wear a badge.

Kennedy Middle and Germantown High schools have interior and exterior security camera systems in place. Staff members at each school have security radios and cellphones on hand to address any emergencies.

Borden said the district also has an effective, working relationship with the Germantown Police Department to assist with any issues that might arise.

Another component of the existing plan addresses volunteers. All people assisting with any school-sanctioned activities are subject to criminal background checks.

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