ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) - Anne Arundel County schools are set to get millions of dollars in upgrades aimed at beefing up school safety, including more School Resource Officers, security cameras, "tactical equipment" and door security.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh announced Tuesday plans to put $14.8 million over two years toward improvements in physical school security and personnel, as well as $11.7 million in capital-project spending.
County officials, including Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto and Police Chief Tim Altomare, noted the past few weeks have been stressful for officials, as they've worked to investigate a wave of threats after the Parkland, Fla., shooting.
“The last few weeks have been tough for us," said Arlotto, adding it's “been a little bit nerve-wracking" not just for Anne Arundel County but for schools nationwide.
Altomare said the police department has "responded to more incidents than you can shake a stick at," and “we have had a lot of sleepless nights, as Dr. Arlotto said."
"We don’t have the luxury of treating a school threat as not legitimate," Altomare pointed out.
He said police are interested, among other things, the physical security of the roughly 120 schools in Anne Arundel County, and how “to make them harder targets for a lunatic.”
The county would double the number of School Resource Officers by hiring 20 more, said Schuh, which would cost $3.1 million.
The $11.7 million in capital spending would include double-door security systems at nine high schools that don't already have them, 1,565 security cameras and servers at all schools, door-lock upgrades on 4,000 interior classroom doors and protective tactical equipment for every school and upgraded access control systems at 81 schools.
He said he expects part of the costs to be defrayed by state funds.
While the county can't prepare for every incident, the funding shows our “determination and commitment to the safety of our students," he said.
Arlotto said the school system plans to make changes in handling large amounts of people at school events like Grandparents Day.
“When we know we’re going to have large numbers of guests, we’re going to ask our guests to be patient," he said, explaining the school system may do "some pre-check and advance sign-ups."
Arlotto also wants to reinstitute a school security council that involves local law enforcement as well as police at Fort Meade to look at safety-related changes and recommendations.
Schools will also be made more available to local law enforcement, so "during their down time," they can stop in at local schools and have access to desks, printers or other supplies, and interact with students so "we've got an additional level of security."