BOWIE, Md. – Prince George’s County Public Schools began the new year Tuesday, and students immediately noticed a number of changes.
The most obvious difference is security, which is much tighter than it has been in the past.
“Parents have a level of comfort knowing that people don’t have access to their children,” says Kevin Maxwell, the school system’s CEO.
The school system has poured $10 million into new security measures, including electronic doors, cameras and fencing around portable classrooms.
“I think those are all prudent measures to make sure that we’re keeping our precious children safe,” Maxwell says.
Schools are now equipped with Visitor Management Systems. People need to have their identification scanned at the door if they want to get into schools.
Officials check the identification against criminal databases.
“It’s inconvenient but that’s preventative,” says Darius Reid, a father at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie.
“They’re being proactive,” Reid says.
Security is a particularly sensitive topic at Benjamin Tasker. While being dropped off for school, a 13-year old boy was shot and injured during the Capital Beltway sniper attacks in 2002.
Today, the beefed-up security measures are a welcome change for many parents with children who attend the school.
“It actually makes me feel pretty good,” says mother Latrice Pomells.
“It leaves me feeling secure, without walking through a metal detector or something like that,” she says.
Another big change that took effect in Prince George’s County involves cellphone use.
Previously, all phones and tablets had to be turned off and out of sight during school hours. Now, students will be allowed to use the electronics for educational purposes during classes.
Principals will spell out their own guidelines for when and where that activity is permitted.