Montgomery County’s stakeholders held a virtual meeting to show a "united front" to affirm that they are working together to ensure student safety, following security concerns voiced by parents in the wake of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Those stakeholders included Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight, Police Chief Marcus Jones, County Executive Marc Elrich, and Council President Gabe Albornoz.
"Students and staff must be safe and feel safe to perform at their very best every single day," Dr. McKnight said. "And we are doing everything in our power to make sure that they feel safe and the protocols we put in place to help them feel safe, allows them to be their best selves."
Dr. McKnight also directed the same comment to teachers and staff.
She thanked Montgomery County police for their work and for the updated relationship MCPS has with Community Engagement Officers.
Dr. McKnight affirmed MCPS focuses on safety by being prepared in key areas like training with students or training with staff and police.
McKnight noted it is police policy and training for the first responding officer or officers to immediately move to preserve life by engaging a suspect.
She affirmed all school exterior school doors are to be locked at all times.
The MCPS leader also said all but two schools at the moment have vestibules.
A vestibule is a security measure where a school guest must be seen on a school security camera before being allowed entrance. That guest is then funneled into the main office where they must sign in to the visitor management system.
McKnight said there are still sign-in requirements at the two schools that do not currently have a vestibule. One of the schools is slated to receive the added security measure in the near future, according to the MCPS leader.
In response to social media postings about this meeting, some asked about safety for the outside school trailers — often referred to as portables.
"We know that over the years many parents have presented concerns about their children being out in portables, so what we have done is incorporated that into our training," Dr. McKnight said.
"As part of our robust emergency preparedness and practice of our drills," added MCPS Director Of School Safety and Security Ed Clarke, "we’ve also worked with our school’s administration to make sure we have communication devices in those locations so, in the event of a critical emergency, we can have immediate communization to 911 but also to school administration."
Those doors are supposed to be locked, said Clarke.
The County Police Chief and school security officials also talked about the importance of learning from major incidents outside the county and within, including the January Magruder High School shooting.
School leaders confirmed on Wednesday an after action report was sent to the Maryland Center for School Safety. Clarke praised the overall law enforcement response but added some things they are working on for the future include improving the clarity of calls going out to 911 and how schools and police operate a unified command.
It was Mr. Clarke’s understanding that the Maryland Center for School Safety will then submit a report to the governor on possible school safety improvements statewide and that documents would be made available to the public then.
Just about every official said the most important part of school safety is the community and for people who see something to make sure they report it.
The Maryland tip line that will be used to help alert schools and law enforcement is: 1-833-MD-B-SAFE
Watch the full Montgomery County safety media briefing below: