PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.-- Just a few weeks away from the start of the new school year St. Lucie County school leaders say they’re prepared.
“Safety is our highest priority,” said St. Lucie County Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent.
At a news conference Thursday at Southern Oaks Middle School in Port St. Lucie, Gent said the district is working closely with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office to make sure no stone goes unturned.
Some of the new initiatives included hiring additional school resource deputies. Superintendent Gent says it was thanks to the referendum passing they’re able to have a trained officer at every school.
According to the district, they have 61 trained law enforcement officers this year compared to 53 last year. The extra deputies will be utilized to cover any vacancies in the schools. Joining the team are also two K9s Rosco and Justice, who will be able to detect drugs, firearms and track any student who has left the campus.
“We think that, that gives us the best level of protection for our students,” said Gent.
For the first time two Fort Pierce Police Department officers will be on campus.
School upgrades will also be visible including 6 foot fences around all schools and single points of entry.
According to the district, it also hired 25 new mental health service providers.
“They will serve as counselors, behavioral technicians, behavioral analysts and social workers,” said Gent.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said there has been an increase in the number of threats made to schools. He’s warning parents and students before school starts that they investigate every threat and take each and every one very seriously.
“Don’t play the fool at school because there are severe consequences,” said Sheriff Mascara.
The school district will also be rolling out a new APP, Active Shooter Awareness Program, for all St. Lucie County teachers. Features include a panic button for every employee, check-in feature, live chat and mass notification options.