School safety

Fencing projects beginning this month are scheduled to improve school safety with one point of entry for each school campus by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

SEBRING — The new year with a new governor and new education commissioner will bring a continued focus on school safety with a recently released state commission report stating school safety needs to be improved.

In Highlands County, improving school safety has been an ongoing endeavor between the cooperative efforts of The School Board of Highlands County and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. Those safety efforts were increased after the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission issued its initial report on Jan. 2 on the school shooting and the safety/security efforts in Florida schools.

Superintendent Brenda Longshore said, “We certainly have been following the commission’s report. It will have an impact on some legislation this upcoming year. There are a number of the recommendations that we are already doing.”

The district has moved forward with fencing projects, which begin this month so that by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year all of the campuses should have a single point of entry, she said.

Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge, Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt, Facilities Director Frank Brown, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and herself have reviewed every campus and the School Board has approved the fencing projects.

“The community will see some movement at our campuses as they work on each campus and what we need in fencing to ensure that we have a single point of entry by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year,” Longshore said.

At the state level, Longshore said she hopes there will be an effort to fully fund the school resource officers.

The preface of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report states: “School safety in Florida needs to be improved. We can do more and we can do a better job of ensuring the safety of students and staff on K-12 school campuses. Not all school security changes or enhancements have financial costs, and some only require the will of decision makers to effect change and hold people responsible for implementing best practices.

“Safety and security accountability is lacking in schools, and that accountability is paramount for effective change if we expect a different result in the future than what occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) on Feb. 14, 2018.

“While there were personal and system failures that culminated in the MSDHS shooting and contributed to its magnitude, it is important to be mindful that the one true ‘cause’ that resulted in 34 people being shot and/or killed, is Nikolas Cruz.

“As we set forth the failures and opportunities for improvement in this report, we must also recognize the many people who acted appropriately by reporting their observations (despite their reports not being acted upon), and the heroes of Feb. 14th who performed admirably, risked their own lives and saved the lives of others.”

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