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DCPS board approves budget, allocates increased funds for security

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Updated: 9/17/2013 2:50 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Duval County School Board voted to approve the budget for this school year Monday night during a special meeting.

There was no contention, no questions and concerns. And it only took 10 minutes. That is quite a change from years past, when a packed house of parents pleaded to find funds for the arts, school sports and bus transportation.

"I think in years past, some of the controversies came because they were cutting at the classroom level, and instead we decided to make cuts at the district level and we said we'll take the pain," said board member Jason Fischer.

The budget is similar to past budgets, with one key exception.

A big chunk of change from the $1.7 billion 2013-2014 school budget is going toward school security. Last year, $3 million was allocated to keeping kids safe. This year, $24 million. That's a 700 percent increase.

"SROs, those are trained officers in our schools. Dean of disciplines at every middle school and high school. A security guard at every elementary and middle school and high school and then more depending on the size of the school. Those are just some of the investments," said superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti.

Vitti said in light of the tragedy that unfolded Monday in Washington, D.C., security is top of mind for everyone. He said while there is always room to improve, he's already seeing a difference.

"You never know when that tragedy may occur, but we can at least train and prepare for something so that people know what to do and how to react."

Action News asked him if Duval County is ready.

"I think we're as ready as we can be."

Vitti said increasing school security isn't all about dollars and cents. Things like training and vigilance are free. They are also making sure kids feel comfortable speaking out if something is wrong.

The emergency response system was also upgraded after the tragedy at a school in Connecticut. And all principals now have high-frequency radios to communicate.

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