Frederick schools start year with new security measures

WINCHESTER —  Soon after Frederick County students return to classes on Wednesday, the division’s schools will have two new security programs in place.

Sheriff Lenny Millholland announced Monday at a news conference that the schools would start using the  COPSync911 and Raptor Visitor Management this year.

COPSync911 is a computer system that allows school officials to directly alert nearby police on patrol of potential safety threats, rather than having to call 911 and contact a dispatcher. Raptor Visitor Management is a computer system that scans a visitor’s government-issued identification and matches it up with a database.

Millholland described Raptor Visitor Management as a way of checking visitors for criminal backgrounds prior to allowing them into the school.

“[Raptor] tells if there are sexual predators or anything along that line,” Millholland said.

Starting Sept. 5, visitors will need a government-issued identification in order to enter the county’s schools. The Raptor system will print out a visitor badge that includes a photograph and information about the visitor.

Millholland described the new systems as proactive steps the school division has taken to keep students safe.

“Our thinking is whatever we can do to maintain the safety and security of our students, we have to do,” Millholland said.

Frederick County Schools Superintendent David Sovine said that the division started looking into implementing these programs about halfway into the last school year.

Since then, Sovine said, “We’ve been evaluating the effectiveness of these programs.”

Millholland pointed to Fauquier County as evidence that COPSync911 was effective. The county’s schools tested the program 177 times last year and had a quick response every time, Millholland said.

Staff at the news conference estimated that COPSync911 cost around $22,000 for the district, which was partly supported by a grant. They did not have an estimate for the cost of the Raptor program, and Susan Brinkmeier, supervisor of operations for the district, said she has not received an invoice for the costs of that program.

In addition to the security programs, Frederick County schools will have a preschool program for the first time this year. Transportation staff have also changed bus routes. Current bus routes can be found at http://edulogsql.frederick.k12.va.us/livewq/webquery.

The district expects an enrollment of around 13,403 students this year, according to its proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. That is an increase from the start of last year, when 13,246 students were enrolled in the schools.

But the projection is about on par with the numbers at the end of last school year.

Over the past decade, the division has experienced a growth in the number of enrolled students, leading to overcrowding in some schools. During Monday’s news conference, Sovine said this is likely to continue.

“We have some concerns that remain regarding overcrowding and class sizes in particular at the elementary and high school levels,” Sovine said.