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    New alert system allows Orange County school employees to initiate lockdowns

    Officials discuss safety ahead of school year

    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An emergency alert system that allows Orange County Public Schools employees to initiate a lockdown if there is a threat was among several topics discussed ahead of the school year on Monday.

    Superintendent Designate Dr. Maria Vazquez, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith and Orange County Public Schools District Police Chief Bryan Holmes delivered remarks during a news conference Monday.

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    Holmes said the district would be rolling out an emergency alert system to all OCPS employees.

    “This year, the district has fully implemented the SaferWatch application, which allows any employee to initiate a lockdown in the event of an active assailant situation or when an individual poses a significant threat to school,” he said.

    The alert button will send a message to 911 and designated school administrators and a lockdown is then announced using the school’s intercom system, Holmes described. He said the application would be available on school employees’ district-issued digital device or it can be downloaded on their personal device.

    In addition to the alert system, the Orange County sheriff reiterated the importance of student safety, highlighting active assailant training deputies go through.

    “And what that means is that they’re not waiting for backup. They’re waiting for a supervisor, and we’re certainly not waiting for the sheriff. When such a tragedy will occur, they’re trained to go in and (neutralize) the threat immediately and save lives,” Mina said.

    Vazquez said communication is critical to the district’s success and she has a plan for the first 100 days to spend “engaging with stakeholders, including our teachers.”

    “Our legal services team has been very busy addressing questions and sending guidance on the new legislation House Bill 1557 and House Bill 1467, which have been complicated, but the information that had been given should be very helpful in the classroom. And I want to ensure all of our students, our teachers, our families, that every one of our students, regardless of race, gender, or background will be supported by our school board and by our district,” she said.

    To make up for the bus driver shortage, district officials said there will be a staggered schedule for high schoolers.

    “There will be two runs in the morning for high school students, which means some students might have an earlier pickup than others,” Wen said.

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    About the Author:

    Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.