LAKE PARK, Fla. — We’re about a month into the new school year. It's similar in many ways to years prior, but very different for a small school in the town of Lake Park.
A small school sits nestled in a Lake Park neighborhood, armed with a new look.
"We have fencing now, we have locks, we have a single point of entry," said Lisa Cullom, the principal of Coastal Middle & High School.
Physical changes this year, like at many schools across the country.
"Was it automatically more part of the conversation after what happened in Texas with your students and teachers?" WPTV journalist Tory Dunnan asked Cullom.
"100%. I think it’s been building up to this," Cullom answered.
Where the change here may differ is emotionally.
"It’s different," student Coco Shields said. "Change is hard, especially when it’s a school you don’t want to change. This change is good."
Positive change to protect a special place.
"They are coming here, some have anxiety. They are here for a reason and this is their safe haven," Cullom said. "So as much as it’s mentally safe and socially safe, we want to make it physically safe."
Cullom said 95% of the students at Coastal Middle & High School are on state scholarships .
"We are a really small private school and kids come here because they are struggling in school or have been bullied. So this is their safe place," Cullom said.
You’ll here the word "safe" here a lot.
"Our biggest goal here is to have a safe place," teacher Alexa Hernandez said.
Hernandez said the deadly mass shooting earlier this year at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas changed everything.
"It’s still always in the back of my mind constantly to keep these kids safe, no matter what were to happen," Hernandez said.
Especially because this school is in the middle of a community, they wanted a single entry point and they installed a video camera to know who was at the front entrance and why they wanted to be in the school at all times.
"A lot of these kids come to us, a home away from home. To have more safety measures around the school, I truly believe will help us," Cullom said.
Physical changes in place are now fueling momentum in the classroom for all.