Coalition for School Safety board members Jessica Coffman and Tessa Fullerton with Realtor George Shea.

A group of FishHawk residents looking out for area students recently received some help from a local business. The Coalition for School Safety, which has been working for almost 18 months to make schools in the FishHawk area safer, received a generous donation from the George Shea Team with Signature Realty Associates, which meant they could install safety measures in eight local schools.

According to Tessa Fullerton, treasurer and interim president with the Coalition, Shea, a local realtor, gave the group a donation to purchase accordion shades in every classroom window at Newsome High School.

“It ended up being enough to complete Bevis and FishHawk Creek Elementary Schools too,” said Fullerton.

But the Shea’s generosity did not end there.

“When George heard we were also hoping to buy blinds for Randall Middle School, he stepped up to the plate again and pledged enough money to keep our kids safe at other local schools, including Barrington Middle and Stowers, Lithia Springs and Pinecrest Elementaries.”

The accordion shades are quick release and are placed in the windows on each of the classroom doors. They are used to conceal students in the event of an active threat.

“Teachers should be tending to our children and keeping them safe rather than having to fiddle with the homemade covers they had prior to our installation,” said Fullerton. “Some had construction paper that had to be taped up, others had magnetic options and some even had nothing at all.”

Shea, whose children attend FishHawk schools, felt called to donate to the Coalition after speaking with some clients who moved to the area from Parkland and experienced the shooting that took place there in February 2018.

“Talking to people who have experienced a school tragedy firsthand made me realize that we need to do what we can to keep our kids safe,” said Shea. “I also feel that the blinds are important not just in the event of a tragedy, but to help reduce everyone’s anxiety and let the kids focus on their school work.”

According to Fullerton, it is now a county policy to have classroom windows covered for lockdown drills, but at most schools the teachers are on their own to find ways to cover the windows.

“The window shade project not only accommodates this practice, but helps standardize the process for the entire school,” she said.

The Coalition for School Safety is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) grassroots organization founded by concerned parents of Hillsborough County students. The group raises funds to purchase safety equipment and tighten security measures within Hillsborough County schools while focusing on early intervention and social isolation awareness.

It has been instrumental in helping many area schools implement the Sandy Hook Promise’s Start with Hello Program, which promotes connectedness and inclusion between students from elementary to high school.

Despite Shea’s generosity, there are still a lot of ways other local businesses can help.

“We have had requests from many local schools, including several title 1 schools in our district,” she said. “A tax deductible donation of just a few hundred dollars can protect up to three elementary schools depending on the configuration of the classroom windows and doors. We would love to be able to help protect students in every Hillsborough County school from kindergarten to graduation.”

Shea and his team feel that it is important that parents and businesses keep in touch with groups like the Coalition to meet students’ needs.

“Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to protect our children,” he said.

To learn more about the Coalition, visit www.coalitionforschoolsafety.com. To contact Shea, call 541-2390 or visit www.georgeshearealtor.com.