Schools Enhance Security—Is It Enough?
Neighboring Mt. Olive High School on cusp of hiring full time, armed retired police officer.
The security of students in school has become a national issue in the past month, after a 20-year-old man opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 people before turning the gun on himself.
Locally, steps have been taken to enhance security measures in various school districts. In Marlboro, New Jersey, the school district’s board of education approved the implementation of armed security guards in each of the town’s nine school buildings less than a week after the Connecticut shooting.
On Thursday, it was announced by neighboring school district Mt. Olive that the high school there is one board of education vote away from installing an armed, retired police officer in that building.
The topic has now been brought up on a number of occasions within the the local school districts, and while some might board of education might be considering changes and enhancements to the plans already in place, many are staying the course with what they already had in the works.
"We are re-designing the vestibule entrances for security to be re-built this summer," said Chester Consolidated Schools Superintendent Christina VanWoert. "But that was in the works even before Sandy Hook."
As for a discussion on armed guards, VanWoert said the board really wasn't looking into that as an options.
Following the Newtown tragedy, West Morris Regional High School Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast stated, “The West Morris Regional High School District has a comprehensive security plan in place that has been developed in concert with our local police departments."
Pendergrast said at the school board’s most recent meeting he was still in the process of speaking with the area’s police chiefs regarding the matter.
"The conversations are always ongoing," Pendergrast said Thursday. "We're looking at what we can do immediately–extra locks, cameras, the concept of panic buttons–and long term. It's all being discussed, much of it at the building level with the principals and staff."
Pendergrast also said that in the time since Newtown, no parent or board member has made mention of implementing an armed guard in the schools the way Mt. Olive may or Marlboro already has.
Both West Morris Central and Mendham High Schools will receive visits from members of the Morris County Prosecutor's Office for security assessments, Pendergrast said, to evaluate what else can be done to make the schools secure.
Over in Mendham Township, superintendent Sal Constantino and his board are taking a similar approach.
"We are having discussions each month regarding security and considering having an outside firm conduct a security audit," Constantino said. "In the meantime, everyone has been consulting with the Mendham Township Police and the Morris County Prosecutor's Office and being as diligent as possible."
With the recent developments in Mt. Olive and the discussions by local school boards, what is your take on this matter? Do armed guards have a place in schools for security?