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‘We have to strive for an A+’: Volusia County outlines new safety measures ahead of school year

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Most Central Florida children may already be cracking open textbooks, but the students of Volusia County Schools are still enjoying the end of their summer break.

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At the district office, however, preparations for the new school year are already underway. In light of the shooting at the end of the spring semester in Uvalde, Texas, safety is everyone’s priority.

“We have to strive for an A+, a 100% every single day,” Volusia County Schools’ safety and security leader Michelle Newman said.

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Newman and law enforcement leaders from across the county held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to outline their safety preparations.

This year, each school will be equipped with police radios to contact 911 dispatch, courtesy of Sheriff Mike Chitwood. Staff will have access to emergency buttons. Schools will have trained SROs and mental health counselors on site, and law enforcement officers have undergone additional training and re-training.

“They’re not going to stand by and wait for others to join them,” Newman said, alluding to the failures of Uvalde police leaders during the mass shooting. “They’ve all signed on the dotted line, as have I and everyone standing behind me, to sacrifice our own lives if it comes to that.”

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Additionally, the district will crack down on bullying, on-campus fights and false threats of violence, including ones reported over the district’s app. Offenders may face criminal charges, Newman said.

Newly installed Superintendent Dr. Carmen Balgobin sounded upbeat when asked about her hopes for the year. She said the district was still battling a vacancy issue, but otherwise hoped to have a “normal” year compared to the last two and a half.

“We are committed to leading with grace and respect,” she said. “Ensuring that every single campus is safe and that learning is engaging for every single student.”

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

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