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Duval County schools want to increase budget for school security

DCPS seeks $133K more for cameras, controlled access systems

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School District now wants more money to make security improvements.

Many parents worry about their kids getting to school safely, but they usually don’t worry as much once their kids are inside the building. But after the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, parents are concerned about that. Hundreds of schools in Duval County could receive security upgrades.

Three parents of children with different schooling situations--one with children in a Duval County private school, one with a child at Baker County High, and one with a future Duval County public school student--are supportive of more security in all schools.

"I’m nervous sending my kids to school, even though I know they’re in a safe environment and that’s a horrible feeling as a parent," said Katherine Naugle, mother of two.

Felicia Yarborough, whose son attends Baker County High School, agreed. 

"I think there could be more safety and security measures, but overall, I feel pretty safe with him out there in school," Yarborough said.

"I just hope it changes, I hope there’s more safety provided for our young people in school," said mother of two Stephanie Patton.

All but eight Duval County public schools have some form of security system at the front office that allows monitoring of who can and can’t go inside. Some may be similar to a system where visitors have to ring a bell. The person at the front office can see who’s at the door and decide whether or not to let that person in.

The Duval County School Board is recommending an increase of close to $133,000 for district-wide security systems, cameras, and monitored control access systems. The original budget for those items was $1.4 million, so if approved, the new budget would be closer to $1.53 million. 

More and more security may be a sad sign of the times, but it's something that makes these moms more comfortable. DCPS officials aren't announcing which schools don’t have buzzer-type security systems.

The district is working to quickly provide funding to install security systems in eight schools. There are three other schools that can never have a buzzer system due to their architectural structure, but other temporary methods are protecting entryways until a permanent solution is found. 

The board is expected to vote on all of this at their next board meeting, which is scheduled for March 6.  

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting can be found on the school board website.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

Today I met with Duval County Schools Chief of Police Edwards, Superintendent Willis and School Board Chair Wright and I must say I am extremely proud of the ongoing partnership the JSO shares with Duval County Schools in upholding the highest standards of school safety. We diligently work together to keep lines of communications open to review both procedures in place for  day-to-day operations as well as effective approaches to infrastructure management. 
Together, we have solidified our commitment to security in our schools for the students, teachers, staff and families of Jacksonville.”

School Superintendent Dr. Patricia Willis and School Board Chair Paula Wright also released a statement on the school district's cooperation with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office:

The safety of our schools and our communities is a shared goal of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Duval County Public Schools. This morning, School Superintendent Patricia Willis, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, School Board Chair Paula Wright, and School Police Chief Michael Edwards met to share insights and reflections on recent events in South Florida and subsequent episodes of violence in our community. 

"Duval County Public Schools’ leadership remains appreciative of the collaborative effort and open communication that exist between the respective organizations. That collaboration has proven especially effective during any incident involving a school, when Duval School Police Officers coordinate with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers in response to any issue which might threaten the safety of Duval students and staff. 

"As our state has been shocked with an unprecedented attack on a Florida school, the positive and constructive relationship between our law enforcement leaders and our school leaders is an asset that will enable us to improve and enhance safety on our school campuses and in our communities. Duval County Public Schools’ leadership remains committed to this relationship and to continuing the dialog with our JSO partners on determining strategies and steps to take to even further enhance the safety of our staff and students."