There were many “free” safety recommendations that came out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Commission report. Many recommendations have been implemented by school districts at no cost. But some recommendations, districts say, are tall orders.
If you try to open any classroom door across Palm Beach County, Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast, it will be locked. That is what school district security officers say.
“After Parkland happened, everybody understands the fact that, why we lock our doors,” said Martin County School Superintendent Laurie Gaylord.
Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee Schools have already implemented many of the “cost-free” recommendations made in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Commission report. Hard corners in classrooms have been identified, ‘code red’ active shooter drills have increased, and safety protocols have been revamped. But the more extensive ones are expensive.
“[We] still identified $15 million in need just for our district,” said Superintendent Gaylord.
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Last year the state allotted $99 million for campus hardening for all 67 school districts.
That money was spent in no time on fencing,” said Okeechobee County School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy.
Every school in the five-county area now has a single point of entry. But the commission report is also asking districts to install locks that can be remotely controlled.
“Certain schools have it and certain schools don’t,” said St. Lucie County School Superintendent Wayne Gent.
Gent says the challenge has been retrofitting older schools. Some of the newer campuses were constructed with the technology. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara pointed out what he sees will be challenging recommendations by the MSD commission.
“They are recommending that school resource deputies have rifles on campus and together we are talking about how to proceed with that, but that might be a challenge as well,” said Sheriff Mascara.
Bullet-resistant classroom windows are also a recommendation and most districts say it’s on their wish list. “Bulletproof windows and glass are very, very expensive. They could be thousands of dollars for one door and one window,” said Indian River County Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jon Teskie.
Almost all of the five school districts in our area are still working on fencing. “It’s a challenge to justify to parents why some schools are finished and some are not,” said Teskie.
“I think we’re all doing the best we can,” said Gaylord.
Palm Beach County’s School Police Chief Frank Kitzerow says code red drills now have more of an emphasis on single officer response training. “I hope we never have to deal with it but in the event of a catastrophic event they’re going to go down that hall by themselves and take care of the business that needs to be taken care of,” said Chief Kitzerow.
The commission report also made recommendations that are more expensive to implement like metal detector, X-ray machines, and gunshot location sensors. All of the recommendations are just that, recommendations, unless passed as mandates by the state.