Aug
 
29

How St. Johns County is working to make your kids safer at school

Posted by: Cathy Eng in Community Involvement, Local Activities, News, Schools
 

Being the No. 1 school district in the state means more and more families are moving to the area to take advantage of the outstanding schools. Compared to last year’s first day of school, this year’s first day saw a 6% increase in students county-wide, or 2,240 additional kids.

With this big increase, officials are working hard to maintain our outstanding reputation for academic excellence—and safety.

More associate teachers have been needed to meet the demand and stay compliant with maximum classroom capacities (18 kids for K-3, 22 kids for 4-8, and 25 for high schoolers). In fact, even after the start of the school year on August 12, the county still has job openings for teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and food service workers.

Beyond the increased needs for staff and faculty, new measures are being taken to ensure schools remain safe from potential threats. Terrible tragedies, like the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, have had a major impact on how all schools approach their own security.

Here are a few changes the district is making to keep your kids safe:

– New surveillance system:A new security surveillance system called Omnicast is being rolled out, which allows the Sheriff’s office to view school camera feeds from a single location. According to the school district’s CIO Bruce Patrou, “A number of schools are now online. We expect to have all of the remaining cameras online over the next two to three months.”

– School start & dismissal times:Have you noticed the shifts in start and dismissal times this year? The district implemented the changes due to the increase in students needing bus service, which extends the time needed to safely pick up and drop off kids. St. Johns County School Transportation Department also purchased 20 brand-new buses and worked diligently over the summer to train drivers.

– Security guards:This summer, the school district joined the Department of Education’s Guardian Program, a state-funded program that puts armed guardians in public schools. Guardians are required to complete 144 hours of firearm safety training as well as pass psychological evaluations and drug tests administered by the Sheriff’s office. Learn more about the program here: http://www.fldoe.org/safe-schools/guardian-program.stml

– Campus improvements:More than a dozen schools have been updated to have just one point of entry and nine schools now have fencing enhancements to provide added security.

– Clear bag policy:Two St. Johns County high schools, Bartram Trail and Creekside, have implemented a clear bag policy for this fall’s football season. This follows similar clear bag policies instituted for games at the University of Florida and Florida State University as well as Jaguars games at TIAA Bank Field.

State mandated safety measures have also been implemented like increased mental health services, school safety assessments and an app to report suspicious behavior (https://getfortifyfl.com/). Learn more about all the added measures at http://www.fldoe.org/safe-schools/index.stml.

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