By Rich Pollack
When students return to Gulf Stream School on Sept. 4, they’ll discover a campus more secure than ever before in the school’s 80-year history, and a staff more focused on safety.
Soon after the February shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the school’s leadership made procedural changes to enhance student safety. Then this summer, several additional physical security measures were implemented on the 5-acre campus.
“The school’s efforts to improve security for students, teachers and parents were essential,” Head of School Joseph Zaluski said. “We are all concerned about the safety and welfare of our students, and implementing several new procedures will better secure our campus.”
During the summer, more than 20 classroom doors were replaced with doors containing bullet-resistant glass and with easy-to-use locks on the inside. In the past, classroom doors could be locked from the inside only with a key; now it just takes the turn of a button to lock or unlock the door.
“Even the youngest child should be able to turn that lock,” Zaluski said.
The school now requires that every occupied classroom must be locked from the inside at all times.
Another physical change to the campus includes the installation of several video cameras at strategic locations, including hallways and entrances.
Zaluski estimated the school spent in excess of $100,000 to replace the doors and about $40,000 for the cameras.
“Though expensive, all the steps taken were absolutely necessary,” he said.
Another significant change at the school this year is additional steps to restrict access to the campus.
The exit gate from the driveway in front of the school is closed throughout the school day but will automatically open for exiting vehicles after a gate mechanism is triggered. The front entrance gate remains open but is closely monitored with cameras.
Access to parking facilities used by faculty and staff is also restricted with a gate.
The school has implemented a new procedure for all vendors and visitors entering the campus.
Visitors must report to the main office where they are required to show a driver’s license. A photo is taken of the person and a badge is issued. Vendors and visitors are required to wear the badge at all times. The system also automatically performs a preliminary background check on all visitors.
The school continues its close relationship with the Gulf Stream Police Department, which has its headquarters a short distance from the campus.
Police officers will be on campus every morning when students arrive and at dismissal times throughout the day.
In addition, Zaluski said, police officers will often walk through the campus during routine visits.
“They have an increased presence,” he said.
Officers from the town are familiar with the campus and recently conducted a second active shooter drill at the school following one held in the spring.
This school year will also mark the beginning of a transition, as Zaluski prepares to retire after his 14th year as head of school.
A committee of trustees, parents and teachers has been conducting an international search with a goal of having the position filled by the fall.