Friday morning’s shooting of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school has prompted South Florida schools to review their safety procedures.
While elementary schools in both Broward and Palm Beach counties have fewer police officers than middle schools and high schools, officials still said they’re doing the best they can.
Palm Beach County School District, which has 175,000 students, reassured parents about its school security Friday, the Palm Beach Post reported.
“With what procedures are in place, parents should feel pretty secure that we have a safe environment,” Palm Beach County Schools Police Chief Lawrence Leon was quoted as saying in a news conference.
Superintendent Wayne Gent said schools have the necessary security.
“Each school has a crisis plan and a single point of entry,” Gent was quoted as saying by the Sentinel. “Staff is trained in what to do in the worst-case scenario.”
Officials said schools have security fencing, surveillance cameras and proper locks on their doors. At the front office, staff “buzz” in visitors and then ask for their ID and their purpose for entering the rest of the school, Leon said.
In addition, staff have an emergency management response system and are trained in lockdown procedures, School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw told the newspaper.
But Palm Beach County said the safety doesn’t stop with school staff. Its police are also trained to assist in worst-case scenarios, including an annual “active shooter” training – something the county has done since the Columbine High School shooting, according to Leon.
Each Palm Beach County middle school and high school has one officer assigned to the grounds, but three or four elementary schools in close proximity share one officer, according to the newspaper.
Gent and Leon said the district will see if any changes will be made.
Broward County, which also has few elementary schools with full-time police officers, will also review its safety following the Connecticut massacre, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
"I believe this incident will probably cause a lot of conversations, not just in the school communities, but the communities at large," Tracy Clark, spokeswoman for Broward County Public Schools, was quoted as saying. "We continuously review our school safety plans, and we will continue to do so."
Each Broward school also has an emergency plan.
On Saturday, the Miami Catholic Archdiocese told the Sentinel that more than 100 churches around South Florida will be praying for the Newtown victims this weekend.
"[Our pastors] will be including it in the Prayer of the Faithful at their parishes at every mass," spokeswoman Mary Ross-Agosta was quoted as saying. "Some of our parishes have six, seven or eight masses so we know it will be a prayerful weekend."
Also on Saturday, Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho offered support to the Newtown publc schools.
Carvalho offered the support of the Miami-Dade District Crisis Management Team, which includes psychologists, counselors and social workers.
“It was with great sadness and shock that I received the news of Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Carvalho wrote to Superintendent Janet Robinson. “Educators here in South Florida and across the world know that this terrible incident will have far-reaching impact on your community for many years to come. Our prayers will be with you and your community now and in the months ahead.”