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UPSD Mulls Armed Guards for 2023-24 School Year
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            The security detail at Upper Perkiomen's schools next year could include armed guards. Last week, administrators presented a consideration for revising the district's security standing for the upcoming school year.

            Administrators provided the school board with an option to hire five armed guards for the 2023-24 school year, according to Superintendent Allyn Roche. He said during last week's regular meeting that requests for proposals are due to the district by April 24.

            Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina presented two options for the placement of security personnel during the April 13 public meeting. One calls for three unarmed guards, which allocates two at the high school and one at the middle school, according to a slide included in a School Safety and Security Update. The district's safety and security team offered the recommendation after conferring with the entire administration and its teacher liaisons, according to information provided Monday afternoon by spokesperson Alexis Jenofsky.

                Farina's presentation identifies the possibility of five armed guards. However, it does not specify where they would be assigned. Administrators will not make a recommendation until they identify a cost for both options, according to Roche.

            Members of the Upper Perkiomen Education Association are more likely to support the creation of a district-wide police department, according to Vice President Philip Detwiler. He said Monday morning that the members would likely be more hesitant to endorse the idea of armed security guards, based on recent discussions of an executive committee.

            "We would need more information on what the situation with armed security guards would look like," said Detwiler, a middle school social studies teacher, who explained that the board does not require approval from the teachers union to implement a new security arrangement. "It's a more complicated question."

            The district currently utilizes five unarmed security guards. Three are located at the high school, while one is at the middle school and the other covers the elementary buildings.  

           Under both proposals, the district would continue to contract with an outside agency, according to the superintendent. He said it would look nothing like Perkiomen Valley's plan to create a seven-person police department.

            Member Judith Maginnis expressed her opposition to allowing armed guards in the school. She spoke in favor of utilizing metal detectors, estimating that the district could purchase enough for all the schools for $100,000.

            "By allowing armed guards into the school, we would be introducing a potential weapon every day against students," said Maginnis, who claims she tried desperately to find any research to prove that armed guards were beneficial, but could not find any.

            Farina told the member that the district's safety and security team – which includes school resource officer Rodney Blake and Douglas Kenwood, the district's director of facilities – would be happy to consider additional prevention methods. She described it as a viable recommendation but explained that the team's work focused on the response to an incident involving an armed intruder.

            "Our work is grounded in mitigating casualties," Farina said. "How do you minimize harm to students?"

            Kenwood identified multiple methods by which the buildings have been hardened. They include the installation of a panic system and security window film at all buildings, the removal of a D loop handle from all doors, ongoing external door checks and repairs, the replacement of all lighting with LED bulbs, the installation of secure vestibules at the high school and Marlborough Elementary as well as a vehicular barrier at the school in Marlborough Township, along with the addition of interior cameras at Marlborough and Hereford elementary schools and the 4th & 5th Grade Center. Interior cameras at the high school will be replaced this summer, according to the slide.






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