Despite numerous stumbles in the months since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, school officials say the campus will be secure and offer a robust learning atmosphere when school starts next week.
Families will see an enormous security presence. There will be 18 personnel on the Parkland campus each day: Three school police officers provided by the city and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and 15 campus monitors and security specialists.
These officials will monitor traffic to ensure only students with ID are entering the campus. Teachers also will have new IDs that they will have to swipe to enter the campus’s main access points.
The 1200 building, where former student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and coaches, now has a 12-foot permanent fence. Nearby, 34 portables have sprung up to replace its classrooms, paid for with $26 million offered by the state after the massacre.
That money also will be used in the coming years to destroy the 1200 building, build a replacement on another part of the campus and construct a memorial to the deceased students and staff.
Also new this year: A buzzer to enter the main office, extra security cameras, new fences and gates, and classroom doors that lock automatically but allow teachers and students to exit without restriction.
“There’s no question this first day of school will be profoundly different,” Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said Wednesday before a media tour of parts of the campus.
Some parents say they are still concerned about security gaps.
“That school will always make me nervous,” said Leon Fooksman, parent of a ninth-grader. “But I feel a sense of comfort that my freshman will enter buildings that will be heavily monitored. We really wanted the metal detectors. That’s key to preventing any more tragedies from happening there.”
The school district announced last week that it had temporarily abandoned its metal-detector plan for Stoneman Douglas, which had been set to be ready for the school’s first day. Runcie said there were too many obstacles, including staffing and expected long lines. The school board is scheduled to discuss a revival of the metal-detector program on Wednesday.
The reversal marked one of many planned Stoneman Douglas security enhancements that the district has scrapped, including having students use clear backpacks and hiring a retired Secret Service agent to review the actions of administrators and then suspending that investigation. Runcie said the investigation would likely duplicate the work being done by a state commission that’s also examining the massacre.
Runcie said the school district may seem to be bumbling but has been faced with unprecedented challenges.
“We’re in uncharted territory. We don’t always get it right,” he said. “What we’re doing now nobody’s going through.”
Stoneman Douglas now has a single point of entry during the day at the main office, where a new buzzer will allow office personnel to take a look at visitors before they enter. During student arrival and dismissal, there will be three entry points: the bus loop, the carpool line and the student parking lot. The student lot will have a security attendant at the gate checking student IDs, school board member Abby Freedman said.
The school also will have two more guidance counselors this year, bringing the total to eight.
There may be more security changes coming: The school board on Wednesday is scheduled to hear from a consultant, Safe Havens, which will make security recommendations not only about Stoneman Douglas but about all 230 schools in the district.
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