TAMPA, FL — The Hillsborough County School District unveiled a new high-tech security system Tuesday that will make it easier and faster for teachers and staff to call for help in an emergency.
The new CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system will also ensure that every student and staff member is notified of an emergency no matter where they are on campus, including classrooms, hallways, the cafeteria, athletic fields or in the parking lot.
Superintendent Jeff Eakins and school board members, along with representatives from the district’s two employee union groups – the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association and the Hillsborough School Employees Federation – and a representative from the PTA were on hand for the introduction of the new notification system at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy, 3915 21st Avenue, Tampa.
In the spring, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission issued its findings following the mass shooting Feb. 14, 2018, at the Parkland high school. Among other recommendations, the commission emphasized the need for systems to alert students, staff and teachers in an emergency.
In response, Hillsborough County Schools opted to implement the cutting-edge CENTEGIX CrisisAlert system that’s been adopted by other Top-20 school districts in the nation, according to Eakins.
The system uses ID badges that can immediately trigger a schoolwide lockdown with audio and visual notifications, and provide first responders with the location where the alert was triggered.
“We are empowering our teachers and staff to be in control of safety in their classrooms and on our campuses. With the push of a button, we know which staff member has an emergency and where they are on campus,” said Eakins. “We can alert law enforcement quicker to respond to a situation. We want our students, our families and our staff to know, as they come back to school in just three weeks, we have continued to make their safety a top priority in this district.”
Hillsborough Schools applied for and was awarded a $7.6 million grant to pay for the crisis notification system through the state’s Safety and Security of School Buildings Grant.
The school safety commission also endorsed allowing teachers to carry guns after receiving required training and, in response, the Florida Legislature passed a bill permitting school staff to be armed if the school district approves.
However, Eakins made it clear in a May 2 letter that Hillsborough County public school teachers will not carry weapons.
“I want to be very clear; teachers in Hillsborough County Public Schools will NOT carry weapons,” he said. “In order for teachers and staff to be armed in any school, our school district would have to opt-in to this part of the Guardian program. We have no plans to opt-in.”
Instead, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco school districts have heeded the governor’s mandate to have trained school security guards present in all schools and have taken other measures to increase security.
Over the past year, Hillsborough County has hired 210 additional security officers and supervisors for every elementary school, charter school, technical college and exceptional center in the school district. Trained law enforcement officers have been assigned to every middle and high school in the county.
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