Hillsborough County schools start first day with extra security measures

TAMPA BAY - Tuesday morning meant the start of school for some nearly 200,000 students in Hillsborough County.

But this school year, there is an added emphasis on school security, with the majority, if not all, of the 215 schools will have extra measures.

Among them, and the most used, is the controlled access point.

Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia said it's a priority.

"We had been doing the controlled access shift to our schools over the last several years, but we really stepped that up," Elia said.

Over the past six months or so, the district has spent some $1.6 million dollars in retooling the security on their campuses.

Earlier this year, after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the district floated the idea of placing armed security guards at every elementary school.

The cost ended up being too prohibitive and the funds were instead diverted to what is now in place today.

MacFarlane Park Elementary in Tampa is one such school with some new safe guards.

The school now has a visual doorbell where visitors and parents alike have to be rung in by security or front office staff.

Assistant Principal Hema Adhia said it's part of the initiative.

"We've not had any particular concerns at our school, but we want to do this as a measure of precaution to make sure all of our students are safe," Adhia said.

Most parents were happy with the move.

"It's nice, it's wonderful because it makes you feel more secure as a parent, you don't worry as much," said parent Claudia Knowles.

And others, have accepted the measures as protocol for today.

"I think it being my first year, my first experience in public schools for me and my son, it all seems normal to me and him," said parent Steven Bostwick.

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