Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students begin new year with increased security

Parkland students return to new classroom locks, more security monitors

PARKLAND, Fla. – As students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School begin their first school year since a gunman opened fire on campus, they're returning to increased security, including 18 safety monitors, new classroom locks and upgraded video surveillance.

Visitors will have only one way in to enter and be screened through a video intercom system.

All classroom doors have new hardware that automatically locks when the doors are pulled shut.

Students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the start of a new school year, months after the Valentine's Day massacre on campus, Aug. 15, 2018, in Parkland, Florida.

Students had mixed emotions returning to school Wednesday and the mood appeared to be bittersweet for most.

"I'm scared. I'm not gonna lie," student Lauren Hogg said. "I think everybody is scared in a way. I don't think school is ever going to be normal for any of us." 

"I'm excited, because I think that it will be a good year," another student, Sara Cardona, said. "I feel like we all went through this together, and so we all understand what everyone else is going through."

Witnesses said teacher Scott Beigel and student Joaquin Oliver were fatally shot after they ushered students inside to safety, in part because the old hardware required relocking from the outside.

Despite $6.5 million spent to enhance security, some students said they'll never feel safe.

Shooting survivor Anthony Borges told Local 10 News he won't be going back to school.

"Maybe I'm not lucky next time, if it happens again," he said.

"Do you feel like something like this could happen again?" Local 10 News investigative reporter Amy Viteri asked. 

"Yeah," Borges said. "Of course."

Borges' parents and other parents of the Parkland school shooting victims have been calling for Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie to be fired because of the district's handling of gunman Nikolas Cruz, a former student who was referred to the controversial PROMISE program.

On the first day of school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a padlock remains on the door to the building where gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire months earlier, Aug. 15, 2018, in Parkland, Florida.

However, some state lawmakers, business leaders and educators are standing by Runcie, saying he shouldn't be blamed for the Valentine's Day shooting that killed 14 students and three faculty members.

Runcie was out before sunrise Wednesday, greeting Broward County students and welcoming them back to school. Among his stops was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Runcie said school safety is a top priority.

"We've doubled the number of security staff here at the school. That's a permanent thing," he said.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said his city received word from the Broward County school district that it would be 13 people short of meeting the state mandate to have an armed individual at every school, prompting him to staff 13 city police officers for the first five days of classes.

"Our No. 1 desire is to have a school resource officer in every single school," Runice told reporters. "Given the reality of what we have ... we've had to make adjustments. So we've participated in the armed guardian program."

Runcie said the district's new armed guardian program, which is part of an effort to put an armed SRO in every school, is still a work in progress.

"Until then, we are continuing to partner with our local municipalities trying to leverage their law enforcement personnel," he said.

Runcie said vacancies at several local departments have forced the district to tweak its original plans.

"Given the reality of what we have, when Fort Lauderdale tells me that they have vacancies of 35 openings, sheriff has 95 vacancies, there’s over 300 in the county, 5,000 across the state, I've heard, we've had to make adjustments," Runcie said. 

While some students believe the new changes are enough, others say there is still more work to be done on the both the local and national levels.

"I feel like it's gonna be OK. I feel like we shouldn't have to worry," Cardona said.

"I'm never gonna feel safe in school until we have common sense gun legislation," Hogg said. 

For the first time Wednesday, students are also using a series of new portable classrooms designed to replace the building where the shooting took place.

That area is still considered to be a crime scene and is expected to be demolished.

Back-to-school guide

About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.