Dear Palm Beach County School Families:
As our hearts still ache for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community, the District continues to study the details from the Parkland tragedy to identify opportunities to improve the safety of our campuses.
I want to thank all of you for your support of our schools during these past weeks. Across the District, I am hearing of parents volunteering to walk hallways to increase the adult presence on campus, greet students to ensure a welcoming environment, and come alongside school communities wherever necessary to make students, parents, and staﬀ feel safe.
Last week, a team of professionals representing large urban districts from across the country visited District schools, conducted interviews, and reviewed our security protocols. I’ve asked them to identify the things the District is doing well as well as areas for improvement.
We are genuinely appreciative of the influx of resources Senate Bill 7026 will provide to expand mental health services to students as well as provide an oﬃcer in every school. While the District ramps up eﬀorts to recruit and hire 75 additional School Police Oﬃcers, we have asked our many partner law enforcement agencies to assist us with covering campuses until new oﬃcers are in place. The support from our Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce and many police departments has been paramount this past month, and we will continue to maximize all available resources between and among law enforcement agencies to ensure increased patrols at and around our schools.
Additional updates I would like to share with you:
After the Parkland tragedy, the District temporarily suspended all drills to avoid panicking students. Drills resumed after Spring Break, and for the remainder of the year, those drills will be announced in advance by the Principal to all students and staﬀ. All schools perform code red drills, a foundational drill to protect students from potential intruders.
Prior to Spring Break, all secondary schools, in addition to elementary school campuses that do not yet have single points of entry, were authorized to hire a temporary position to assist with monitoring school entries, parking lots, or other areas identified by the Principal.
The District facilities team has created safe rooms in schools where students would have historically had to enter a hallway to seek shelter in a locked classroom. New doors and locksets have also been installed for classrooms that did not have a locking mechanism. The facilities team continues to expedite work orders to ensure every teacher is able to lock their classroom door.
The School Police Department and staﬀ from the Operations Division continue to identify projects that will occur when students are oﬀ campuses for the summer. This includes the installation of fences, changes to front oﬃce entries, replacements or upgrades of security cameras, and many other projects that have been identified in partnership with Principals, concerned parents, School Police, and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of improving campus security. Thanks to the community’s generous support of the penny sales tax, all schools were scheduled to receive security improvements over the next few years. The School Board has directed this work to be accelerated, wherever possible.
I have also asked our Regional Superintendents to examine protocols for students to wear I.D. badges. While some schools already have students wear I.D. badges during the school day, these protocols would be adopted Districtwide.
We also want you to have a better idea of the safety protocols and procedures that we require Districtwide. Our Education Network is working with School Police to create a series of awareness videos, so you know what is expected of teachers, staﬀ, and students during an emergency.
If you are concerned about processes or protocols at your child’s school, please work with the school principal and other parents to identify solutions. Safety can only improve if we continue to work together as a community.
One example of how working together as a community can bring great results is the StudentProtect app, a collaboration between School Police and the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce. The StudentProtect app is now live in Apple’s iTunes Store and Google Play – just search for PBC StudentProtect.
We appreciate the Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce for their proactive work in making this app a reality and giving our students, teachers, staﬀ, and parents an opportunity to report any suspicious activities they see on their campuses. I encourage you to download the app and explore the many safety features and alerts it oﬀers.
As educators, we know the importance of safety and security in our schools. Students can’t focus on learning if they don’t feel safe. While we may not be able to share every aspect of our security plans with you, I am committed to keeping you informed to the fullest extent possible.
Donald E. Fennoy II, Ed.D. Superintendent
Please click here to see the formatted version of Dr. Fennoy’s letter.