COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Serious steps to improve school security in Howard County. They’re making $2 million in changes, hoping it will help prevent a tragedy like the one in Newtown, Conn.

Adam May examines the plan.

This might be the most comprehensive plan announced in Maryland since Newtown, but county leaders admit they can’t guarantee it will work.

Thunder Hill Elementary in Columbia is now equipped with state-of-the-art security.

“It makes me feel a lot better about bringing my child to school,” said Pam Mann.

Mann, the mother of a first-grader, has to get buzzed in, then sign in on a computer–all under the watchful eye of an extensive camera system. The changes are coming to every school in Howard County.

“We have great folks in our schools but one of the things we found out: we are well-trained but there are some gaps,” said County Executive Ken Ulman.

Ulman ordered this comprehensive security review soon after 26 innocent children and educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“You give your kids to trusted professionals and you want to make sure we’re safe as possible,” Ulman said.

But police admit security is not a guarantee. After all, Adam Lanza shot his way through locked glass doors at Sandy Hook.

“I think if you have someone really motivated, it’s gonna be difficult. But our job is to make it difficult,” said Chief William McMahon.

The improvements include buzzers at entry points, visitor badging, camera systems and computerized check-in systems for parents.

The school system is also improving training and drills for various emergency response scenarios.

A key component of the plan improves communication of the existing mental health supports available to students and others in the community.

That’s why expanding mental health support and programs like this weekend’s gun buyback are also critical parts of the plan hoping to ensure every child comes home at the end of the day.

The security changes should be fully implemented by next year.

County officials are working with private schools to improve safety as well.


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