St. Johns County schools will have increased law enforcement presence for final week of classes

Paul Abbatinozzi, Senior Director for School Services in St. Johns County, joins us to discuss safety precautions at schools and the work to keep our students safe.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After 19 children and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman at a Texas school, St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson sent a message to parents, explaining that security will be heightened for the remainder of the school year. Other area school districts are taking similar precautions.

Forson described the shooting as “heartbreaking” and talked about the positive relationship the district has with local law enforcement.

Paul Abbatinozzi, Senior Director for School Services for the district, told The Morning Show that relationship is important because the district has a deputy in every school to help prevent a tragedy. Abbatinozzi said Wednesday morning that law enforcement presence will be increased until the last day of school on June 2.

“We have security strategies, everything from the fence all the way into the building, strategies with our staff members, our lockdown drills, everything to continue to promote keeping kids aware, keeping children safe,” Abbatinozzi said.

Abbatinozzi said things like the Fortify Florida app, which was created by the state in 2018 as part of a response to the Parkland school shooting in which 17 students and staff members were killed, has helped.

“It gives parents and students an opportunity to report information to us that 24/7 It doesn’t have to be during the school day. It can be anonymous if someone chooses to do that. So just the ability for us to collect the information,” he said. “We’ve grown a lot post the Parkland tragedy with threat assessment teams at our schools and things of that nature so we’re going to continue to do that.”

Abbatinozzi said threat assessment teams conduct yearly checks at all schools and are in the process of doing them now.

He added that building relationships with students and families is also a key to safety.

“Some of the best means for us to get information is working with our students. We get a lot of information from our students, and it heads off a lot of pieces. So you know, we’re going to continue to do that again and focus on our operations plans as we as we continue to move forward,” Abbatinozzi said.

Below is the entire message sent to St. Johns County school district families by Superintendent Forson:

Dear Parents, Staff and Community Members,

It is heartbreaking to be writing to you today about the tragedy of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tx. This horrific act incites fear and insecurity in us all. I am so appreciative of the partnership that exists between the school district and our local law enforcement agencies, the St. Johns Sheriffs Office and the St. Augustine Police Department. Our schools are safer due to their support and expertise and our collaborative relationship.

This is a message that I never want to deliver especially during a time when we are celebrating the amazing accomplishments of our students. We will have increased presence of law enforcement in and around our schools as we close out the school year.

Friday, June 2, is the last day of school for St. Johns County.

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Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.