By: Sharon Aron Baron
Students, faculty, and staff returning to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School next week will notice new security enhancements, which the district announced are designed to ensure a safe and secure learning environment.
Broward County Public Schools has implemented dozens of changes at the Parkland campus, and said there are more to come during the 2018/19 school year.
According to Superintendent Robert W. Runcie, 34 portable classrooms are installed at MSD, two of which will be used as the Wellness Center, dedicated to individual student and group counseling. Two other portables will serve as administrative office space, 28 will be fully operating classrooms, and the remaining two will be restrooms.
Some of MSD’s security enhancements include: A video intercom system, upgraded surveillance cameras, more security staff including three security specialists – double the security presence that was in place at the start of the 2017/18 school year, and additional guidance counselors.
The District anticipates that final inspections will be completed this week, and is striving to have all portables operational on the first day of school, August 15.
Single Point of Entry: A video intercom system with electronic door release (buzzer) has been installed at the visitor entrance door to the main office, which serves as the single point of entry during the school day. This will ensure the door remains locked at all times, and staff has the ability to interact with visitors through the video intercom system before allowing entrance into the building.
Controlled Access Card Readers: Controlled access card (RFID) readers have been installed at the primary entry points for staff. This will require staff members to “swipe” their identification badges to gain access to the main administration building. Securing the primary access points for staff into the building ensures these entrance points can remain locked at all times and prevent unauthorized access to campus through the main building.
Surveillance Video Camera System: The surveillance video camera systems at all schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD), have been upgraded. They are on a standard digital platform with enhanced functionality. Thanks to the generosity of community partners, additional cameras with enhanced capabilities that provide improved surveillance have been donated and are being installed at MSD and other Parkland schools. A dedicated security person has been hired to monitor the camera system at MSD throughout the school day and alert appropriate individuals of suspicious activity.
Metal Detectors: The District intends to conduct a pilot or trial use of metal detectors at MSD. A District Workshop on August 14, 2018 will work through issues that have been raised and seek recommendations from an independent security firm to ensure the pilot is implemented successfully. Considerations include the need for additional infrastructure and equipment, privacy concerns, the impact to start times from processing a large student population through entry point metal detection, staffing models required to support the project, and limitations associated with metal detection.
Security Staff: MSD has increased its security presence on campus for the 2018/19 school year to 18: three School Resource Officers provided by the City of Parkland and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, 12 campus monitors and three security specialists.
Enforcement of Safety Protocols: All safety protocols for routine school operations will be enforced every day. This includes requiring visitors to sign in at the main office and wear identification badges at all times while on campus, as well as requiring students and staff to wear identification badges at all times.
Classroom Door Hardware: All classroom door locking hardware throughout the school has been replaced, ensuring doors remain locked at all times. Classroom doors will always be locked from the outside, while maintaining the ability for students and teachers to safely exit their rooms.
Intercom System: The school’s intercom system has been upgraded in connection with the portable project. The new system works with the school’s digital telecommunications system and allows all authorized staff to use it from any of the phones or other electronic devices on campus. This includes the ability to initiate pre-recorded messaging to facilitate emergency code lockdowns remotely on campus.
Additional Fencing and Gates: The District is installing additional fencing and gates to establish a secondary perimeter. This additional fencing will serve to limit campus access to three entrances, once inside the perimeter fence. Additionally, the District has enhanced its security procedures for perimeter gates. All perimeter gates will remain closed and secured once the school day begins. Beginning this year, all perimeter gates will be staffed any time they are open. This includes at the time of student and staff arrival, dismissal, and when allowing visitors on campus during the school day.
1200 Building Fencing: A new, permanent 12-foot fence was installed around the 1200 Building. The State Attorney’s Office continues to require that the building remain secured for evidentiary purposes. The new fence is required, recognizing it is hurricane season and the previous fence was damaged in a storm.
Installation of Portables: Because the 1200 Building will no longer be available, the District approved a contract two months ago for the placement of 34 portables on the MSD campus. These portables were installed on an accelerated timeline and will provide additional educational space for classrooms and dedicated areas for student counseling services. As of August 7, 2018, all 34 portables have been delivered; electrical power has been provided; access ramp installation is in the final stages; furniture and fixture installation is nearly complete; technology, the intercom, fire alarms, and security systems are operational and undergoing final inspections.
Guidance Counselors: Two guidance counselors have been added for the 2018/19 school year, bringing the total at MSD to eight. They will provide additional counseling and trauma support services for MSD students. Counseling will continue to be available to students, staff, families, and the community throughout the year.
Independent Security Risk Assessment.:The first phase of the security risk assessment, conducted by Safe Havens, has been completed. The firm will present its preliminary recommendations to the School Board at its August 14, 2018 Workshop. The District will utilize these recommendations to initiate additional security enhancements at MSD and systematically to all schools throughout the District. The District will continue to collaborate with the MSD community regarding security enhancements and safety procedures for the campus.
“The safety of every student, teacher and staff member has been, is, and will be our highest priority. I am incredibly grateful for the true team effort put forth by the District, MSD and our contractors to fast-track the process to make this campus as safe as possible,” said Runcie. “We remain dedicated to continuously improving, enhancing, and strengthening security, so that every individual feels safe, and is safe, at every school, every day.”
Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Parkland Talk. She has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Parkland.