JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The last year of high school football in Duval County will be remembered for championships on the field -- and violence off it.
In May, a person was critically injured in a shooting outside Terry Parker High's football stadium, and a year ago, the season opener at Raines High School ended in bloodshed.
As a safety precaution, most games for Duval County Public Schools will start at 6 p.m. -- an hour earlier than they have traditionally kicked off.
“I think 6 o’clock is our new norm,” DCPS Athletic Director Tammie Talley said. “It’s going to be the time moving forward with all varsity football games, and it kind of lines up with our junior varsity games that start at 6 o’clock and then our middle school games that start at 5:30.”
Three games that draw big crowds will be played on Saturdays, including Sandalwood vs. Fletcher, Raines vs. Lee and Raines vs. Ribault.
Talley said the earlier start time for Friday games could also get students home earlier.
"When kickoff is at 7 p.m., sometimes they aren’t getting home until 10 o’clock,” Talley said. “We hope that will help with some issues we have in the community.”
The 6 p.m. start times apply to all home games for the 17-team Gateway Conference but games at private schools and in neighboring counties won't be affected.
The time change is just one part of an ongoing master safety plan parents and students will need to get used to.
Fans heading to a game can expect to go through a metal detector, and they can expect to be wanded before entering the stadium. No backpacks will be allowed in, and all small bags will be searched. The no re-entry policy is still in place.
School safety assistants will be at every game as extra eyes and ears for police.
Another change for the 2019 season, general admission is $8.
“We are excited for the season and looking forward to packing the stands and having some more state champions," Talley said.
An added safety resource for parents and students is an app called FortifyFL that's available for download. Any school threats, suspicious or criminal or activity can be instantly and anonymously reported through the app.
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