Efforts to improve the safety and security of Pasco County Schools continues, as the district works to reduce potential threats on school campuses.
The district recently submitted a plan to the state’s Office of Safe Schools, outlining steps it is pursuing to make its campuses safer.
That submission came after a briefing on the efforts, presented to the Pasco County School Board, on Oct. 20.
Michael Baumaister, the district’s chief of security and emergency operations, gave the briefing, after a closed-door session between the school board, district staff and representatives from local law enforcement agencies. That session was private because of the need for confidentiality, relating to security issues.
The safety upgrades that have been done, are in the works, or are planned, are in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy and laws that changed with it, Baumaister said.
The 2018 Valentine’s Day shooting spree left 17 dead and 17 injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The public outcry, including persistent student protests, prompted state legislators to mandate safety upgrades on school campuses across Florida.
The district’s recent safety assessment was required by state law.
During its review of the district’s current measures and practices, the goal was to
“use our resources smart, do tangible security improvements that actually have meaning,” Baumaister said. “They’re (upgrades) not there just for show.”
Initially, the district responded to the state’s mandate by ensuring that security improvements — such as a hole in a fence, or a sign down — were addressed and completed through work orders.
“I visited many of the schools and, I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t seen many issues that are still out that need to be addressed,” said Baumaister, who joined the district in July.
Part of the district’s current plan involves security cameras.
Some schools don’t have any cameras, or have too few, or have them in the wrong places.
The plan is to make sure that schools lacking cameras receive them, and that those that need more get them, and that those needing relocation are moved, Baumaister said. That work is being done in phases.
The district also is adding window security film in some places.
The film provides tinting and mirroring, and also hardens the glass.
“If something punctures the glass, the glass doesn’t fall apart. It stays together. You might have a hole in the glass, but it will stay together and it will keep people out,” Baumaister said.
Improvements also are being made to ensure that school safety guardians at elementary schools can communicate directly with law enforcement.
There are some dead areas on some campuses, where the radio system doesn’t transmit. Those areas are being mapped out, and bi-directional antennas will be used to correct the problem.
The district also is evaluating where it needs to add perimeter fencing at some schools.
“We’re also looking to put a video doorbell at each front door of every school,” Baumaister said. “Someone hits the bell, someone from the inside can see who’s coming and they get let in.
“This way, there’s a stop point. You can’t just directly enter schools. It’s important. The installation of that has been going on for the last year and it should be completed, probably, by the end of the year — give or take a little bit,” he said.
The district also is using its “human tools” to help improve security.
“We’ve increased our ‘See something, Say something’ campaign. It creates an ability for our students, if they hear about a threat, to let us know about a threat,” Baumaister said.
“Fortify Florida is very heavily implemented in the schools,” he added. “It’s like an early warning system. So, if a student hears about something, they can let us know, anonymously, if they’d like to, so we can jump ahead on it.
“Our Crisis Go app has been implemented fully, in all of schools this year. We’re doing all of our drills through Crisis Go. What Crisis Go is, is basically an alert system. You hit a button and help will come on its way.
“If an intruder is walking across the campus, they can hit the alert on their computer or on their cellphone, and it will notify the authorities and help can come to them,” he added.
Student Crime Watch programs are encouraged, and the district has fully implemented its Threat Assessment Teams, Baumaister said.
Those teams include law enforcement, mental health, guidance and administration.
The goal is to provide intervention early — to help avoid bigger issues, the security chief said.
Keeping schools safe
The district is pursuing several ways to enhance campus security, which include:
- Adding more security cameras
- Installing window security film, with tinting/mirroring. This allows students and staff to see out, but makes it harder to see in. Plus, the glass doesn’t shatter, making it harder for intruders to break in.
- Installing video doorbells.
- Promoting programs such as, ‘See something, Say something,’ Student Crime Watch, Crisis Go and Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams
- Providing perimeter fencing at more schools
- Adding bi-directional antennas in some places, to improve communications through radio transmissions
- Adding signs, to make it easier for responders to identify specific buildings where help is needed
- Posting no trespassing signs, to reduce potential threats on campus.
Source: Pasco County Schools
Published November 04, 2020