Central Fla. school officials heighten security in wake of Conn. shootings



ORLANDO, Fla. - Some school districts in central Florida are taking extra precautions when it comes to safety after Friday's school shooting rampage in Connecticut.

Officials with some local school districts said they’re implementing specific safety measures, while others told WFTV they will remain on high alert and continue to monitor the situation.

Deputy Scott Sturrup is part of a unit that usually focuses on juvenile crime. He and other deputies are changing their usual routes and routines this week, patrolling schools across Orange County. 

As WFTV’s Nancy Alvarez rode along with the deputies, Sturrup pointed out small steps schools have already taken to strengthen security.

“You can see they have the garage door shut.  Those doors are usually open,” he said of one school.

The extra patrols were added to enhance security provided by school resource officers. 

WFTV learned all middle and high schools in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties have officers in place five days a week, but that's not the case at elementary schools. 

Only three of Seminole elementary schools have an officer on duty full time.  In Osceola and Orange counties, officers rotate between schools.

Related story: Orange Co. Mayor wants deputies in all schools

“They may have four or five schools they visit on a regular basis,” said Sturrup.

The cost of the officers is divided up between the school districts and the law enforcement agencies, officials said.

Osceola County Schools spent $900,000 this year on its officers, and Orange County spent $2.3 million, officials said.

But hiring more officers in schools comes down to costs, and most districts can't afford more.

Parents like Jamie Middleton don't want to hear cost as an excuse. 

“Do you think the school districts, locally, do enough to keep kids safe?” Alvarez asked.

“That's a tough question.  The public school system needs all the help it can get, I'm sure,” one parent said.

WFTV sent a list of questions to local school districts asking what they plan to do to beef up security. Almost all said that cost is a big factor in any changes to security.

In Orange County four schools; Gateway, Silver Star Center and two alternative schools, have metal detectors in place. 

In Osceola County officials said metal detectors are available to schools upon request.

A security consultant told WFTV that it would cost about $35,000 dollars for one metal detector and X-ray machine.  That cost doesn't include the cost of the staff to operate the machines. 

Shatterproof film for glass windows at the schools could cost up to $100 per window, WFTV learned.
"The reality is, it comes down to money," said Orange County deputy Scott Sturrup.

A Lake County School District spokesman said the changes seen in local schools could be comparable to the changes seen after 9/11 in terms of security. 

Districts break down extra security measures:

Seminole County: School officials told Eyewitness News that "increased diligence will be given to security procedures that are already in place." School employees will remain vigilant to any suspicious activity, officials said.

Osceola County: School officials said they have implemented heightened security procedures but would not elaborate about specifics. Officials there are working with local law enforcement agencies to reassure parents that their children are safe at school.

Orange County: Law enforcement officials in Orange County said there is "heightened awareness" when it comes to safety and there will be increased visibility at public schools in the county.

Lake County: School officials said they don't anticipate any changes when it comes to school security procedures. Officials also said students can always request to speak with a school counselor if they need to.

Marion County: School district officials sent out a reverse 911 call to parents Friday night, reassuring them that they have safety measures in place. Officials would not elaborate about specific school security measures, but said that they vary from school to school depending on several factors.

Eyewitness News is waiting to hear back from officials in Volusia and Brevard counties.