Contact: Matt Reed
Office: 321-633-1000 ext.796
Brevard Public Schools will move faster to keep students and staff safe by installing voter-approved security fencing, video cameras and remote-controlled entrance locks at all schools by spring 2018. The security measures will restrict entry to a single, controlled access point at each school while durable emergency gates and doors with “crash bars” allow students and staff to escape if necessary.
The school board voted 4-1 Tuesday June 13 to modify a contract with Sanford-based Wharton Smith Construction to make schools safer sooner.
The $2.6 million increase for the accelerated work will not affect the funding or pace of other, bigger projects to replace decaying school roofs, wiring, pipes and air-conditioning systems with proceeds from a voter-approved half-cent sales surtax. A series of such projects is underway at 21 schools across the Space Coast this summer:
- At Melbourne High, which will receive $7.6 million in repairs and renovations, the work will include about $89,000 in fencing and “access control” technology – about 1 percent of the total.
- At Apollo Elementary in Titusville, due for $1.8 million in tax-funded projects, about $116,000 (or 6 percent) will pay for fencing and security.
- At Southwest Middle in Palm Bay, which will get $2.8 million in renovations, about $52,000 (2 percent) will pay for remote-controlled door locks, a camera and other access control.
- At Kennedy Middle School in Rockledge, scheduled for $2.5 million in renovations, about $116,000 (4 percent) will pay for security.
“We pushed for this because we feel the security of our schools is of utmost importance,” said School Board Member John Craig, whose district includes Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and Cocoa.
The changes will increase overall spending on surtax-related security projects from $5.7 million to $8.2 million. The added $2.6 million will pay for access-control technology recommended by the Brevard Sheriff’s Office, which operates BPS security, and will cover the cost of more precise school-by-school plans for durable fencing and gates.
The June 13 vote came after weeks of vetting the proposed changes by board members, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn, the Sheriff’s Office, Blackburn’s cabinet and the voter-created Independent Citizens Oversight Committee. The oversight committee voted 7-1 to endorse the accelerated security spending on May 16.
Blackburn and other leaders ultimately decided it was impossible to prioritize which children and staff should be made safer sooner while others waited years, as the original plan called for. The Sheriff’s Office also endorsed the final plan.
Board Member Andy Zeigler, whose district includes West Melbourne and Palm Bay, said, “My biggest fear is that we do not take proactive measures to protect our babies, and something happens in the meantime.”
Said Craig: “It’s certainly worth the extra scrutiny. We want to get it right – we owe that to our students and our community.”
The increased security spending has been more than offset already by higher-than-expected revenue from the .5-cent-per-dollar sales surtax passed by Brevard voters in 2014 to repair and upgrade schools. Technically, the faster funding for security will come from “borrowing” from possible future projects and paying it back under a strict schedule endorsed by the oversight committee.
Overall spending on security is expected to remain about 3 percent of total surtax spending over the six years of the tax.
Meanwhile, the school district has worked with school faculty, the Sheriff’s Office and police departments to improve security in other ways:
- The school board voted in May to spend $891,000 to renew contracts with the sheriff and police for school resource officers at all middle and high schools.
- Many school and district staffs have been briefed on common threats and precautions such as locking classroom doors.
- District security has instituted a new and improved badging system for employee and visitor access to buildings.
- District security has intensified investigations of alleged threats made on social media.
- BPS will introduce a consistent discipline policy districtwide in the fall.
Oak Park Elementary in Titusville received security upgrades including gates, fencing and front-office “access control” with sales surtax money approved by Brevard voters.