Newsome students Sydney Strickland and Mia Cafaro pose for a picture after they interviewed Rep. Beltran, School Board Vice Chair Melissa Snively, Principal Bruning and Deputy Alonso for the school newspaper.

As Rep. Michael Beltran (R), Hillsborough is prepares for the legislative session beginning in early March in Tallahassee, he will focus his efforts on school safety, making it his top priority. Umbrellaed under school safety comes single point access, gates and security, bus transportation, safe roadways, safe sidewalks and crosswalks, school resource officers and mental health.

Hillsborough’s school board vice chair Melissa Snively invited Rep. Beltran to walk the campuses of Marion S. Rodgers Middle School in Riverview and Joe E. Newsome High School in Lithia.

“As we are upon the anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, school safety is in the forefront of the district’s priorities. Beltran will have his own kids entering the school district in a few years, so education is important to him. Walking the campuses allows him to see and experience it for himself,” said Snively. “We are asking for additional funding to fund resource officers on every school campus. It costs almost $17 million and the district falls short about $7 million after the state funds $10 million.”

Rep. Beltran discussed with Rodgers Middle School’s Resource Officer about his own driving experience. “I was driving and kids were biking in the road and walking on the shoulder and I had to look out for them. I fear parents late for work or late for school and the temptation to drive a little faster–it is dangerous.”

He sees the congestion, dangerous walkways and crosswalks in the mornings and afternoons in his own community of FishHawk Ranch. He added, “We spend a lot of money in terms of preventing shooting incidents, which is very important. Traffic is also a safety issue and a lot more kids are exposed to getting to school safely than will ever be exposed to gun violence. Just as we are spending money on hardening the school campuses, we need to spend money on busing to ensure kids are safe as well as reduce congestion. We are spending a lot of efforts on public transportation and school buses are also public transportation.”

Newsome’s Principal, Carla Bruning, stated, “We are like a college campus of over 3,050 students enrolled and approximately 760 students coming and going due to virtual, dual enrollment at HCC and homeschoolers.” Bruning adds, “Before, the strict security was viewed as an inconvenience to parents and students. Now, the district is behind our efforts and people can see the big picture of what school administration has to deal with to keep our students safe.”

As Beltran walked through Newsome’s campus, the students demonstrated the hard corner in the event of a shooting. Bruning explained that a hard corner is an out of sight area where students cannot be seen from the door window.

Newsome students Mia Cafaro and Sydney Strickland explained some classrooms have extra safety steps put in place for preventive and protective measures. Knowing they have monthly safety drills at school to make them feel more safe as well as knowing the district is training teachers and guidance counselors to help students with mental health brings the students comfort.

“I would definitely talk to one of my teachers that I feel comfortable with if I ever felt the need,” said Cafaro.

For more information about school safety, please visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/departments/9/security/about/. For more information about Rep. Beltran, please visit https://public.lobbytools.com/legislators/737.