Cost becomes hurdle to boost safety in Duval County schools

School safety plans don't match up with budget

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Fencing, security camera systems and metal detectors to help prevent mass school shootings like what happened in Parkland all require funding most Florida school districts don’t have.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the nearly $89 billion state budget, and school district officials may be disappointed that there may not be enough funding to cover safety measures he recommended.

Duval County's budget increased $9.9 million over this year's $936 million budget.

Metal detectors, for example are a safety feature many feel would make schools safer. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are a wide range of walk-through metal detectors, and the prices vary. They can start off as little as $1,000 and run as high as $30,000.

The moderately priced models cost around $4,000 to $5,000 and usually offer the features required for a school metal detection program. Doing the math to install a $5,000 metal detector in every Duval County public school, amounts to a cost of nearly $1 million, and that doesn't include maintenance and upkeep.

Still, the push to help make schools safer is not going away anytime soon. Hardening schools is part of the plan that many of our local districts say they're improving, but there's no exact timeline or details.

Some of those hardening features include having a resource officer at every school as part of  Gov. Rick Scott's Keep Students Safe Plan. That would cost the Duval County School District $14.3 million a year to hire and equip enough police officers to cover every public school, and it would cost $18.7 million if charter schools were included. 

District officials say the $4.1 million in funding for safe schools, which officers are just a part of, isn't even close to covering the costs mentioned above.

Fencing is another safety feature. Atlantic Coast High School is one of the biggest high schools in Duval County, at 161 acres. A spokesperson for Hercules Fence Company, which has experience with fencing local schools, says the ballpark price to fence a school that size would be about $162,000.

Some schools have fencing, some don't,  but to provide you an idea of about how much it could cost to fence every one of the 197 schools in Duval County, the price could be up to $32 million.

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