St. Johns County schools increase safety measures

Author: Ashley Mitchem, Morning traffic, news reporter, amitchem@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 08 2013 11:40:33 AM EDT   Updated On: Aug 08 2013 06:11:15 PM EDT
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -

The St. Johns County School District recently earned a national safety award, and it seems schools there will be even safer as district officials continue upgrades this year.

The district already had security measures in place, but since the Sandy Hook school shooting in December, it has increased safety measures.

"I think there was some urgency. We moved right away," Superintendent Joe Joyner said. "We communicated with our schools. We wanted a consistent message and we sent that message not just to our schools but to our parents."

One safety measure the school system took was to meet with local law enforcement.

"I think we communicated very well immediately," Joyner said. "We got to where we got to work with our sheriff's department, and not only to have increased enforcement, but also to actually sit down with us and do another analysis."

After that meeting, calls went out to parents that night to let them know there would be more officers onsite, a sigh of relief for parents and students.

"I have always felt safe. After Newtown, that was when I was not feeling very safe, but immediately St. Johns County had police very visible on campus," parent Kim Loving said.

"We had to do like lockdown procedures and all kinds of stuff, so I was scared but I felt safe here," said Susannah Loving, a sophomore at Nease High School.

Another change this year at St. Johns County schools will be one way in -- through the front office.

"We also looked at our single point of entry and how we control traffic flow into a school, and we've made some decisions to do some capital work, some building work," Joyner said.

For several years, schools required people coming onto campus to go through the office and sign in using an electronic system, but it was still possible to walk in some schools without it because many older schools were built as open campuses.

The goal of a one point entry is to make sure guests are checked in by a staff member.

When parents and students go back to school Aug. 19, they'll notice a physical structure that now moves those entering the campus straight to the office, keeping out people who shouldn't be on campus.