Technology will help keep Lee County students safe as they start their school year Wednesday and beyond.
"Students come to school to learn to see their favorite teacher or staff member and to make memories with their friends," said Lee County School District Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier. "Students should never have to worry about their safety while at school."
At a media briefing at the Lee County Sheriff's Office Tuesday Bernier and Sheriff Carmine Marceno provided a glimpse at how school and student protection would work.
"We recently purchased virtual reality goggles that we can import the layout of any school and train for any situation," the sheriff said. "This training can be done anywhere. State of the art technology has proven to solve and prevent crime."
Additionally, Marceno explained that having a school resource officer in every school, and two in many, is an advantage. The agency has issued every deputy detective and supervisor in the county a key fob that will allow them to access every school in the district.
"This will ensure that if there's an incident that's reported, we will not wait," Marceno said. "We're going to throw every resource possible to a situation and handle it."
Superintendent's take: Back to school: Q&A with Lee County School District Superintendent Christopher Bernier
Adding to the information available, Marceno said detectives and analysts at the agency's Real Time Intelligence Center, at the Sheriff's Office headquarters off Six Mile Cypress, can get access to any school camera system and provide information immediately to deputies at a scene.
The center also provides a way for law enforcement to scrub social media for any details regarding a specific incident.
Making Lee schools safer
The sheriff said these security efforts were made via cooperation with Bernier.
"He understands that the safety of your children is our primary goal," he said. "Students need to go to school to learn and teachers need to be able to teach."
Bernier said families need to be reassured that when their children are at school, everything possible is being done to keep them safe, support them in their academic achievement and success.
"Our team has also worked around the clock not just to reopen schools and bring the community back into the classroom, but to do so in a manner that provides for the safest learning environment possible," Bernier said. "Our staff has worked diligently to secure perimeters, enhance single points of entry, participate in training of our emergency alert systems and teach IQ and make sure that the safety protocols are followed. each and every day.."
Marceno urged parents and students to talk to school resource officers or call tips anonymously into a hotline such as Crime Stoppers or the Fortify Florida reporting app.
"Do not ignore a red flag," Marceno said. "Parents and guardians most importantly, please talk to your children. Times have changed. Children need to know the power of cell phones and social media."
Lee County bus routes
As an aside, Bernier also said the district was still looking to increase the number of bus drivers.
"We're still missing a significant number of what we'd like to have in terms of our drivers but our transportation unit has done amazing work, collapsing routes," he said. "We believe that we're ready for the first day of school."
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Law enforcement to have access to Lee County schools, cameras