TITUSVILLE, Fla. - Shortly after construction workers installed the last few feet of fence surrounding Jackson Middle School Tuesday, Principal Tina Susin placed a ceremonial golden padlock on a gate to signify the completion of a major district-wide security improvement project.
In 2014, Brevard County voters approved a half-cent sales tax surcharge to help fund security upgrades at all public schools, specifically perimeter fencing and the creation of a single access point.
When students return to class next week, they will find that all 83 Brevard County schools, along with five additional school buildings, have been outfitted with the new security improvements.
"The idea behind the single point of access is to control entry into your facility so you know who is on your campus at all times," said Planning and Project Management Director Sue Hann.
With a wide variety of campus layouts, including some containing decades-old buildings, administrators said it was often challenging to seal off access to the buildings while still making it easy for students, staff and visitors to come and go.
"When we got into the design process, we realized we really had to walk every campus, talk to the principal, talk to the folks who do food services, talk to the administrative staff who have kids coming in from remote locations at some of the high schools, and figure out where the garbage truck goes," Hann said. "But I think we got through it pretty well."
As part of the $9 million project, many schools needed additional security upgrades in their main entrances, such as new doors, walls and locks with electronic access.
"It gives more reaction time," said Major Andrew Walters with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. "It is a barrier between the outside world, the people who are not supposed to be on campus, and the faculty and children who are on campus."
While law enforcement officials acknowledge the security improvements may not prevent an unauthorized person from entering the campuses, the upgrades should make it tougher for them to do so.
"This is a big thing. This is a big step," Walters said. "Jackson Middle School was a wide-open campus prior to this project. By adding this fence and access control, now we can control who comes on campus."
Long before February's fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Brevard school district leaders and a citizen oversight committee decided to prioritize the security improvements over other facility upgrades also being funded by the sales tax surcharge.
"I think time is critical," said school board member Misty Belford. "We're certainly in a day and age where we have to think about things differently than we did four or five years ago. Moving forward as soon as we were able to was important."
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