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Security upgrades keep school, students safe after county review

New+door+to+the+main+office+from+the+main+school+entrance.+
New door to the main office from the main school entrance.

New door to the main office from the main school entrance.

Yeikela Mendez

Yeikela Mendez

New door to the main office from the main school entrance.

Sarah Elbeshbishi

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Montgomery County Public Schools’ Department of Facilities Management altered 22 out of 25 high schools, including altering doors and improving blind spots by relocating or adding new cameras after a security reviews of all county schools.

The security reviews consisted of school visits from a group of two outside consultants, a MCPS performance director and people from the Department of School Safety and Security.

During the review the principal, staff, security and students contributed ideas. “They wanted to … get a feel for the culture of the school and the school climate,” Robert Hellmuth, the director of the Department of School Safety and Security, said.

MCPS also plans to conduct security reviews at the middle and elementary school levels once the school year begins, Hellmuth added. An incident in the county last year influenced the decision to evaluate safety protocols and measures.

“I think the reason why [we’re doing the reviews] was because we had a serious incident at one of our high schools that got national attention, and it was just a good time to say, ‘Ok, what could we have done better?’ ” Hellmuth said.

But besides that incident, issues in neighboring counties, like Prince George’s and Fairfax, have officials concerned that similar issues can occur in MCPS.

Safety measures at Watkins Mill include locks on doors, cameras, exterior building swipe access, a security team of seven members including two school resource officers and school specific rules and policies.

“I definitely feel safe at Watkins Mill,” senior Alex Wright said. “We have a fair amount of security guards, we have a school resource officer, we have locks on the doors, and all the cameras. I would say that they do a good job of preparing for [anything].”

The current administration has helped to make students feel secure in their surroundings as well.

“My school has an amazing principal. She makes sure all her students come to school and feel [as] safe as possible,” senior Karyn Chambers said.  

Principal Carol Goddard is entering her third year at Watkins Mill, continuing her implementation of policies to improve the environment of the school.  

While these reviews are about school security, there are other elements that are considered such as resources, revenue and MCPS’ overall policies. “It’s going to be a comprehensive review, it’s [going to] take some time to do all this and to put all the different pieces together, but it’ll get done,” Hellmuth said.

Overall, MCPS’ decision to look at security at their schools “expresses some of the concerns that maybe teachers, administrators [and even parents] have,” Athletic Director Reggie Spears said.

“Our goal is [to] … have buildings and communities that are safe, where students can get a quality education and staff [can] … feel safe and can come and teach and work,” Hellmuth added.

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The student news site of Watkins Mill High School
Security upgrades keep school, students safe after county review