School security technology and metro emergency plans
After the Sandy Hook school tragedy, Fairfax County Police requested a meeting with school leaders to discuss how officers access school buildings during an emergency. It turns out many other metro area school districts are doing something they are not.
If there's an incident like Sandy Hook Elementary and police officers need to get inside a building quickly - deputies in Loudoun County use a swipe card to enter every school quickly.
In Montgomery County, school leaders say they can open any school remotely for police.
But Fairfax County school officials say the swipe card wouldn't work at all county schools because only some schools have the equipment.
"I guess I would probably feel better knowing that they could get in if they needed to,” explained Joanne Hammermaster, parent and former Wolftrap Elementary PTA president. “Because I wouldn't want the difference in someone potentially getting harmed to be a lapse of time."
"I want my school to have the ability to control what they can control,” said Rick Barnard, parent. “But also the county to step up when it's important to protect our kids."
Instead of the swipe card, school officials say they offered to provide a school master key to every police officer. County Police say they declined because it's too difficult to keep track of the keys.
"I can tell every parent to rest assured that if the police department needed to gain access to a school we could do so quickly," stated Officer Shelley Broderick, Fairfax County Police PIO.
School officials say 53 school resource officers carry a master key inside the middle and high schools. There are no officers stationed inside the elementary schools.
"All of the K-9 police officers have building master keys, swat teams have building master keys,” said Fred Ellis, Fairfax County Director of School Security.
Fairfax County Police say so far they have not had any school access problems during an emergency.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office says it is working on 200-plus swipe cards for all first responders to get into schools in the next two weeks.