Central Florida businesses stepped in to make schools safer during summer months

Florida students head back to school Aug. 12

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Central Florida school districts say they are ready for the new school year, after keeping busy during the summer months to keep students safe.
 
"I have a fantastic team who has worked hard all summer to get ready for the first day," Seminole County Schools Superintendent Walt Griffin said. "I'm excited to visit all the high schools for the first day of school."
 
Over the summer, Griffin said officials continued to harden school campuses.
 
"We continue talking about hardening campuses. That's fences, the gates, cameras and so on," Griffin said.
 
At four schools in Oveido - Haggerty High School, Oviedo High School, Lawton Chiles Middle School and Jackson Heights Middle School - brand new cameras will be installed within the next few months. 
 
The cameras were paid for by the community through an initiative called Secure Oviedo Schools, led by the pastor of CrossLife Church, Dwayne Mercer.
 
"Pastor Mercer approached me several months ago now about what we can do to help the Oveido-area schools," Griffin said.
 
Together, he said, they came up with a plan to add the new cameras, and within the summer months, Mercer said the initiative had grown throughout the community.
 
"We had a pediatrician down the street donate $5,000. Our church gave $20,000," Mercer said.
 
Other businesses all took part in a golf tournament in February in which Secure Oveido Schools raised $77,000.
 
"Though the county and the state are doing something about it, it takes time and we wanted to speed that up," Mercer said.

The effort was much appreciated, Griffin said.
 
Several other school districts told News 6 about other ways the community helped keep students safe this summer.
 
"We are also giving more visibility to the SpeakOut hotline, thanks to a generous donation from Kevco Builders in Eustis," said Sherri Owens, with Lake County Public Schools. "Kevco paid to have six of our maintenance vans and two of the Lake County Sheriff's Office school resource officer vehicles colorfully wrapped with bright graphics and the hotline number -- 800-423-TIPS (8477)."
 
News 6 was also there for the "Stop the Bleed" campaign partnership between Orange County Public Schools and Orlando Health.
 
Griffin said Seminole schools will be adding even more school resource officers to high schools and larger middle schools this year.
 
"Two, maybe three," Griffin said. "I think everyone is thinking about school safety and it's really more about building relationships. We talk about students having someone to report to. The SROs are fantastic at training students and building relationships."
 
For more responses on how your child's school district is ready for the first day of school, including if it is in compliance with the state law to have a school resource officer at each school, read below: 
 
Lake County Public Schools 
 
Lake County Public Schools is in compliance with state requirements for student resource officers, according to a district spokesperson. The district updated and increased the number of school security cameras, and there is a nurse and a mental health liaison in each school to help address issues with students before they escalate, according to the statement.
 
The district is also giving more visibility to the SpeakOut hotline, thanks to a generous donation from Kevco Builders in Eustis.

Kevco paid to have six of our maintenance vans and two of the Lake County Sheriff's Office school resource officer vehicles colorfully wrapped with bright graphics and the hotline number -- 800-423-TIPS (8477). Those will circulate throughout the district this year. Kevco also paid to have 10,000 lanyards made -- one for every middle school student in each school’s colors -- highlighting the hotline number.

"We want students to become familiar with the number and to use it to report any safety concerns they might have," a district spokespersons said.
 
Orange County Public Schools

District officials said OCPS is in full compliance with the state's requirements.

"We will have at least one SRO or district police officer assigned to every school from bell to bell this school year," a spokesperson said. "In addition, the district has increased the number of handheld wands in all middle schools to two. High School campuses already had two."

Last month, OCPS participated in a two-day active assailant training.

"The two-day event was held last month and allowed us to test our responses, as well as practice our new reunification protocols," the statement from OCPS said. "This event was made possible by a grant the district received and was well attended by all of our law enforcement and fire rescue partners."
 
During the summer the OCPS Standard Response Protocol was updated to now include a new HOLD protocol. Students remain in the classroom until the all clear is announced, and teachers should close and lock the classroom door.

The new posters have been distributed to all schools for immediate use.
 
Osceola County Schools 
 
All Osceola County Schools will have school resources officers in place across the district.
 
"The school district has detailed comprehensive safety and emergency plans for every school and site that are not shared with the public to prevent those with ill intent from using information against us, a spokesperson said. "We continue to harden our schools and work cooperatively with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, the Kissimmee Police Department and the St. Cloud Police Department to ensure we have safe environments (in which) to learn and work."

Osceola County School officials continue to encourage and expect students and community members to say something if they see or hear a specific threat.  Every threat is taken seriously by both the school district and local law enforcement agencies.  Anyone can report a threat or suspicious activity on FortifyFL, at www.getfortifyfl.com and they can ask a safety question, report bullying or report a threat by visiting Keep Osceola Safe at www.osceolaschools.net/keeposceolasafe.
 
Marion County Schools
 
Marion County Public Schools has a school resource officer in every one of our schools for the new school year.  

"We are making improvements, including additional fencing at several campuses that direct all foot traffic to a single point of entry," a statement from a spokesperson said. "Additional security cameras are being installed.  Marion County Public Schools Police Department is now officially recognized by law enforcement agencies."
 
"Finally, we are sharing the message of 'See something, Say something, Do something' this year because everyone – students, staff, parents, families, and all of us – can pay more attention and do simple things to keep our campuses even safer."
 
Volusia County Schools

Volusia County Schools are 100 % compliant with state requirements for school resource officers.

In addition, single points of entry using fencing is nearly completed at all schools and cypher locks and cameras have been added to campuses.

District officials said they are also now requiring all middle and high school students to wear student identification on lanyards every day, starting this school year, to help staff easily identify students.
 

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