Smooth Start For School Security Changes

SNOW HILL — Months of planning has made the addition of new school security this year “seamless,” according to one principal.
Now that the first week of the school year is over, both educators and law enforcement are satisfied now that they have seen the security in action.
“There weren’t any hiccups at all. The staff was very prepared,” said Dawn Rogers, principal of Ocean City Elementary School.
All county schools have added new security measures for the 2013-2014 school year in response to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. last year. All doors are locked and visitors to the school must be buzzed in and then present identification. The biggest change from years past, though, is the armed officers that now watch over schools while they are in session.
Having an officer to patrol the halls and grounds of the school has been reassuring, said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, principal of Snow Hill Elementary School.
“He’s always that visible presence, which is comforting for parents and comforting for children and our staff,” she said. “And he just walks the building to make sure that things are safe and walks the grounds to make sure things are safe.”
According to Lt. Ed Schreier of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, having law enforcement in schools, even if the officers are never called to action, is incredibly valuable.
“Putting a law enforcement officer in a school helps alleviate the fear and the fear can affect a lot of people,” he said.
Rogers agreed, though at the elementary level, she doesn’t believe most of her students have really noticed the officer. Parents and faculty certainly have, she continued, but so far she has only heard good things. Cooper, likewise, wasn’t able to report any complaints after the first week of school. Even though the new ID checking system takes more time to register visitors, no one seems to mind, she said.
“Parents have been very excited and very willing just to take a couple extra minutes to do what is necessary to make sure that everyone is safe,” said Cooper.
On the technical side, there have been a few “growing pains,” said Schreier, but nothing unusual for the significant amount of new security.
“It’s all been positive. There have been some procedural issues that the school board had put in place that people are beginning to learn and comply with,” he said. He added he “personally has not heard a negative comment” so far.
Besides the new visitor check-in and law enforcement in schools, more security is likely to be phased in later this year or next. If this first week in real-world practice is any indication, Cooper is confident that any additional security will be handled intelligently and only serve to make people feel safer.
“There hasn’t been a disruption. It’s been very seamless. It’s become very easy,” she said. “The comments that I’ve gotten have been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone is tickled with the security. They feel that their children are safe. The staff is excited because they feel that the measures have been put in place.”
Rogers said her entire faculty adjusted immediately and needed little training.
“When that first person walked up to the door and used the buzzer system and it worked, right then we just felt so much better,” she said. “We can do this and it is easy to do.”
This first week has been useful for the Sheriff’s Office as well, said Schreier, and has proven that the months of planning was put to good use.
“The partnership has been reinforced. You put something out on paper, you put an idea out, a theory or hypothesis, so to speak, which needs to be tested or proven. Well that’s what we’re doing now,” he said.