Mass shootings on school campuses — in places like Uvalde, Texas and Parkland, Florida — highlight the need to focus on continuous improvement of safety on school campuses.
In Florida, it’s the law.
Michael Baumaister, the district’s chief of safety and emergency operations, gave a general overview of the district security plan for 2022-2023 school year during the Pasco County School Board’s Oct. 4 meeting.
That overview followed a private session between the board, Baumaister,and representatives of law enforcement agencies who work closely with the school district on safety and security issues.
The closed-door meeting was necessary so security professionals could brief the board on issues that must remain confidential.
But during the board meeting, Baumaister explained general steps the district is taking to continue to improve security.
He explained Florida’s law for school safety plans was adopted after 17 people were killed and 17 were injured in the 2018 Valentine’s Day shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland.
Those shootings spurred a public outcry and persistent student protests. Ultimately, state legislators mandated a series of new steps intended to reduce threats on campuses across Florida.
Baumaister said even before those state actions, Pasco had been seeking ways to improve safety.
Those efforts continue.
“Every year, our partners do campus tours with us. We walk through our campuses and, from there, we develop new procedures, we plan projects and then we prioritize our projects.
“The partnership we have (with law enforcement) does work. We’re fortunate in our county that we have that. Not every county experiences that. We’re very lucky,” Baumaister said.
Baumaister described some of the current efforts, including a work-order system to make minor repairs at schools, such as repairing fences and cameras.
The district also uses window security film, to harden the exterior of its schools, aimed at making it harder for intruders to penetrate.
It also has added a doorbell system, to give staff the ability to find out who is visiting and why, before allowing access.
It also has polished up its reunification and emergency operations plans, he said.
Fencing also has been added at some schools, to make them “less open access,” while retaining the appearance of the building being a school, he said.
“We also added signage. And, we’re constantly doing more communication improvements,” Baumaister said.
Completing improvements, however, required funding, he said.
The district is asking the state to continue its funding at the current level, Baumaister said.
The district also has allocated funds for school hardening efforts, from potential future Penny for Pasco revenues, if voters approve that initiative.
School board member Alison Crumbley commented on the thoroughness of the presentation the board received during its closed-door session.
She commended Baumaister’s leadership.
“We can’t, obviously, share a lot because of security reasons. But everyone in this county, parents, citizens, should be aware of the work that he has led and that the teams have put together.
“It’s mind-blowing the good things we have in place here in Pasco County,” she said.
She also noted that the Pasco school district is considered a leader regarding its partnerships with law enforcement.
The “state looks to Pasco County for guidance in a lot of areas of school security,” Crumbley said.
She also noted those leading the efforts “are continuing to do work constantly — they’re not just stopping where we are, and it’s incredible.”
Published October 19, 2022