Putnam County school board agrees to add substations at 2 schools

Board also approves motion for new school safety task force

INTERLACHEN, Fla. – The District School Board of Putnam County on Tuesday night approved an agreement with the Sheriff's Office to add substations to two schools. 

The substations will be located at Browning-Pearce Elementary School and Mellon Elementary School.

Interlachen High School already had a substation on its campus that had not previously been affiliated with the school.

Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach told News4Jax that all three substations will be staffed by deputies and have equipment for the SWAT team and K-9s to ensure students are safe. 

The three schools were chosen for their locations:

  • Interlachen High covers the west end of the county
  • Browning-Pearce is right over the bridge and can cover central or south
  • Mellon can cover the central part of county

A "Stop Station" will also be added at Miller Middle School. Deputies can do reporting there, but it won't be a full-blown substation. 

The district is hoping to add four resource officers, but it will depend on what's available in the budget. When the district gets more resource officers, Miller Middle will be the first to get one, district officials said.

During its meeting Tuesday evening at Price Middle School, the school board also discussed school safety and invited the public to weigh in.

"Once we hear gunfire in our schools, that is a sign that we have failed," community member Leonard Freeman said. 

Additionally, the school board unanimously approved a motion for a new school safety task force, which was proposed by Freeman.

"The task force will receive input, analyze and strategize a comprehensive strategic school safety plan with recommendations for action," Freeman said. 

Freeman proposed that the task force be made up of administrators, teachers, students and bus drivers. 

The school board agreed that the task force will consist of 21 of those people, and will be implemented by Superintendent Dr. Rick Surrency.

What the school board didn't agree on Tuesday night was having to vote on the so-called Guardian Program at an upcoming meeting on April 17.

"Unbelievably surprised that it would be on the agenda in two weeks," School board member Nikki Cummings said. "I just can't fathom that."

The Guardian Program is one aspect of the sweeping school safety bill passed last month by the Florida Legislature. The new law would allow sheriffs and school districts to train school employees who are not full-time teachers and allow them to carry guns on campus. That could mean a coach, a part-time administrator, or anyone considered a guardian of students.

The sheriff said the sooner the board votes on the Guardian Program, the better.

"I can tell you though, whenever you try to organize a program of this magnitude that it takes months and weeks of preparation," DeLoach said. "My concern is that if we wait until as late as July to make a decision, we will likely not be able to implement the program."

The next school board meeting is in two weeks, and the board is expected to vote on the Guardian Program. 

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