FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - As students and teachers across Broward County begin to arrive for their first day of classes, the school district has made their safety its top priority.
Parents are boasting their confidence that the schools are protecting their students with highest security possible.
“I’m always concerned, but right now I feel that everyone’s doing their job and keeping their students safe,” one mother said.
“I feel very secure as a parent,” said another.
“They’re trying to protect the children and their families as best as they can,” one father said.
There’s always trepidation with the first day of school, and more than a year after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward County Public Schools officials are taking additional security measures as parents have raised safety concerns.
“We haven’t forgotten, and we are continuing to work together in a collaborative way to make sure that the changes are implemented for the safety of all our communities,” said Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky.
BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie spoke about campus safety during a stop by a school bus yard, early Wednesday morning.
“We’ve now centralized the oversight, the training and the accountability related to all our security staff,” he said. “That includes the [school resource officers], the campus monitors, the security specialists.”
The Broward County League of Cities has released a report explaining its recommendations and what work still needs to be done. The league has suggested more than 100 recommendations to bolster school safety that include more mental health counselors, the addition of metal detectors and an overhaul of the radio system.
School district officials said there will be at least one SRO or a security guard posted at every school, and more than one in larger schools.
“Every traditional school will have some element of security at that school,” said Broward County School Board member Patricia Good. “Whether it be an SRO, whether it be a school guardian or someone from our own SIU unit.”
A state law passed after the Parkland massacre requires schools to have at least one armed person on campus.
“It is quite expensive to have your own police force, and as [Sunrise] Mayor [Mike] Ryan has indicated, there is a shortage of police officers throughout the state of Florida,” said Good, “so just putting that together would take some time and certainly transition.”
“As we hire additional security staff, we’ll be at a point where we’re investing about $53 million in security staff in Broward County,” said Runcie. “That includes the hiring of 521 additional staff this year.”
All schools in the county now have updated surveillance systems, which gives the Broward Sheriff’s Office real-time access in case of an emergency. This new technology allows officials to monitor over 10,000 cameras, and they’re bringing in an additional 2,500 cameras in the near future.
“We’ve got access to more than 10,000 school cameras, and from a strategic command and control point of view, that is absolutely essential,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mike Riggio. “We have been able to actually monitor real-life incidents, code reds, lockdowns at schools.”
The new Threat Management and Crime Center at BSO ties into the 911 system. There are currently 20 workstations where each city in the county will have a representative, and this is just the first phase, BSO officials said.
“Anytime a school call comes in, we’re immediately notified, and we can bring up those cameras in that specific area,” said Riggio.
In addition to each school having a single point of entry, the Broward League of Cities is calling for even more changes to make schools safer.
“The radio system is at its end of life, and we need to accelerate the installation of the radio towers and the implementation of a new radio system,” said Ryan.
Mental health is also at the forefront of the Broward League’s list of recommendations.
“Together with the school district, we are infusing throughout our community social emotional learning, conflict resolution and skills to prevent tragedies like the one we saw happen on Feb. 14,” said Cindy Arenberg-Seltzer, the President and CEO of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.
The mental health recommendations paired with a new surveillance and security center has led to officials’ belief that these are steps in the right direction to enhancing security in schools across the county.
“Keeping our schools and our community and our kids safe is not just a school district responsibility. It’s all our responsibilities,” said Runcie.
The superintendent stopped by a bus yard in Broward just hours before the start of the new school year.
“We’ve now centralized the oversight, the training and the accountability related to all of our security staff,” he added. “That includes SROs, the campus monitors, the security specialist.”
BSO officials said that the centralized surveillance communications center has already worked.
BSO said they had an instance at a school where someone came on campus that was not supposed to be there. Officials told deputies on the scene about the person and shared intel. The person was later removed safely from the premises.
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