Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students will return on Tuesday morning to find grief counselors, new class schedules and a heavy law enforcement presence that will last until at least the end of the year, Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
The Parkland school, where 17 students and staff were shot to death, currently has one school resource officer assigned. Runcie said the law enforcement presence will be
“significantly enhanced” but declined to say how many would be added.
“There will be enough security there that parents and students will feel comfortable with the law enforcement presence,” he said.
The district is also reviewing long-term security plans all schools. Runcie said the district plans to ask the Legislature this session for funds for more school resource officers. He said the district would need about $11 million to $16 million to add more officers.
“We have high school campuses that by and large are the size of college campuses. How many college campuses have a single security guard? You can’t cover that kind of ground,” said Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants Association.
Most Broward high schools and middle schools have one officer, and elementary schools generally share officers.
While Palm Beach and Miami-Dade school districts have their own police force, Broward contracts with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and local police departments. The district splits the cost with local municipalities.
Other school districts are also considering adding more school resource officers.
Palm Beach County has one police officer in every middle and high school, with elementary schools sharing an officer. To place one officer in every elementary school and two in every middle and high school would cost $8.9 million for officers and $6.9 million for equipment, said district spokeswoman Amity Schuyler.
The School Board plans to hold a closed session Wednesday to discuss its options.
“We would like to identify funding sources,” Schuyler said.
On another security front, Runcie is trying to expedite the placement of fences, gates and barriers around school perimeters so people can only enter a school campus at the front office.
While Stoneman Doulgas has this single-point-of-entry security feature, about 55 other school campuses don’t. The open campus design was a factor in how a former student at Coral Springs High was able to get onto campus during lunch with a gun in 2016. No one was injured in that incident.
These security projects were included in the 2014 bond referendum approved by voters, but the program has been behind schedule so far.
Meanwhile, the district may look at other measures, such as whether the glass windows on classroom doors should be made to withstand bullets. Runcie said he also wants to advocate for changes to the law that could possibly stop people with histories of violent behavior from buying guns.
“The solution is not going to be just one thing,” Runcie said. “We can build a fortress, improve our mental health investment and do all the things correctly. When people with these issues can still have access to guns, it’s problematic.”
In addition to more security, the district also had to revamp its class schedule. The three-story building for freshmen, where many students were killed, will be closed for the foreseeable future and Runcie is proposing it be demolished.
So students may be attending class at different times and in different rooms.
“It was tight but we were able to accommodate all students on campus and not split up teachers and students,” Runcie said.
On Tuesday, their first day back, students will be released two hours early to help them adjust, Runcie said. The other district schools will have a normal schedule that day.
Stoneman Douglas teachers and staff are scheduled to return this Friday.
A voluntary orientation will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Counselors and support services will be available at the orientation, and the return to school.
The School Board plans to be there Tuesday to welcome students back, Board Chairwoman Nora Rupert said. The district chose Tuesday so students could attend all the funerals, Runcie said. The last one is scheduled for Monday.
“We didn’t want them to have to choose between going to a funeral or going to school,” Runcie said.