Fairfax Co. schools approve new safety measures

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The Fairfax County school board has taken a step toward further securing its schools.

On Thursday night the board approved a budget that will fund several safety recommendations made after a recent audit of how campuses are secured and prepared for any threats they may encounter.

The school system approved close to $4 million, which will allow for changes to be made in three target areas, including safety training, mental health support and physical security improvements at schools.

For safety training, the budget sets aside $781,000 for the hiring of staff for safety training. The new hires would be in charge of developing and running drills and tabletop exercises, which would be geared toward students, teachers and other staff members at schools.

Another common discussion after previous school shootings has been on the mental health of the accused gunmen. The school system has earmarked $2.2 million to bring 18 more metal health psychologists and social workers to help students at schools.

“It’s something, but I don’t know if its quite enough,” said Jim Schottler, of Annandale.

Schottler believes that more mental health support is needed at schools. He thinks this would allow schools to focus more on preventing tragedies.

“Kids who are at risk to do things like go into schools and do school shootings would have the opportunity to have better mental health, if they had more mental health counselors at schools,” said Katherine Stewart, who is the parent of an elementary school student.

When it comes to actual school buildings and classrooms, $1 million will go toward replacing 1,880 old, dual-keyed door locks, with push locks that the Office of Safety and Security believes will allow for schools to be swiftly locked down if there is a security threat.

“I think safety and security for our children is very important; I think we need to be careful not to make our schools into lockdown prison type atmospheres,” said Alexis Martin, the mother of two middle school students.

Some other options listed will get more attention in later meetings. Among them, installing cameras inside elementary and middle schools. Currently, only high schools have them installed.

The board decided, as well, to discuss whether elementary schools should have school resource officers, such as they do in middle and high schools.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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