Hillsborough schools show security updates to state lawmakers

As the anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School approaches, members of the Hillsborough County School Board showed state lawmakers the security measures put in place during the past year and discussing challenges facing the district.

Rep. Michael Beltran, (R) Hillsborough, toured three different schools Monday: Newsome and Plant High School and Rodgers Middle School.

At Newsome, for example, the exterior gates remain locked at all times, including the one accessing student parking. Visitors have to be buzzed into the main office.

And, as is now required by state law on all campuses, there is an armed officer patrolling the grounds.

"With the anniversary fo the Parkland incident, I thought this might be a good time to kind of bring awareness to what issues are still around for our schools," said Melissa Snively, the school board's vice chair.

Newsome's principal said the security upgrades have been helpful, but she still has concerns.

"What keeps me up at night is someone coming on our campus, some way that we don't know, whether it's crawling over a fence, crawling through a swamp, coming through the side, the back, all those things keep me up at night," said Principal Carla Bruning.

Beltran, meanwhile, will be heading back to Tallahassee next month for the legislative session. A committee of Hillsborough school board members will also be traveling there each week, to lobby lawmakers for more funding.

It currently costs $16.9 million to deploy an officer or deputy on each campus in the district, $9.9 million of which is covered by state funds. The remaining $7 million has to be picked up by the district.

"It's challenging because most school districts are alraedy strapped as it is, so we're really having to dip in an get creative on funding some of these," Snively said. "We're going to make it work and that's what I wanted to show the representative is that, with regard to funding, yes, we would like more support, we would like more resources from the state for the mandate but we are going to make it work for our students."

Beltran said he plans on addressing whatever concerns he can.

"To the extent that the school districts are having difficulty implementing the increased security, we're going to have to go back and look at our budget and see if there's something more we can do," he said.