Security window film approved for Palm Beach County schools
With school safety and security always top of mind, Palm Beach County public schools are planning to harden windows to better protect students and staff members.
The Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a multi-million-dollar deal with a Georgia-headquartered company to provide "safety and security window film" at schools.
The agreement between the district and National Glazing Solutions LLC is the latest development — following the rollout of metal detectors at four Palm Beach County high schools earlier this school year — in the ongoing effort to secure schools as much as possible.
“We feel like we’re kind of ahead of the curve in Palm Beach County, that we’re constantly trying to add on, again, that next layer of security,” Superintendent Mike Burke said at a Nov. 1 meeting with the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation.
Under the deal, the School District of Palm Beach County will spend no more than $4 million a year from its capital budget on the window film, which Burke said will be applied to school windows that are not impact windows.
"So that it basically gives them the strength of an impact window," Burke said.
For security reasons, WFLX is not revealing how many schools the window film will be installed at, or the timetable for when the work could be done.
“If you feel safe on the campus, you are probably going to be safer,” Chief Sarah Mooney of the School District of Palm Beach County’s Police Department told WFLX education reporter Stephanie Susskind before the start of the school year. “That’s the whole goal here. To make sure everything is physically safe. But we want everyone to feel safe, also.”
Mooney described to Susskind how window film provides an additional layer of security.
"It can help with breaks. It is an added layer of security, so it kind of helps the window from splintering," Mooney said.
The deal will run from Nov. 16 through March 31, 2025.
James Beale, the co-founder and CEO of National Glazing Solutions, told WPTV that certain Palm Beach County schools will be equipped with a "multi-layered security film," along with "impact protection adhesive."
Used together, those products are designed to strengthen windows, potentially delaying an intruder by several minutes from getting into a school.
"Ideally, you want to buy enough time so the bad guys are outside still trying to get in, and then the first responders show up. And that's the premise of safety film in schools. That's why it matters," Beale said.
Calling school security a "layered approach," Beale said "every minute counts" when it comes to stopping an intruder from getting into a school, and the strength and integrity of window security film could slow criminals down enough for law enforcement to respond.
Under Florida law, every K-12 public school in the state must have at least one school resource officer on campus, a critical requirement that came in the wake of the 2018 deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
"Typically, these perps, time isn't their friend. They start freaking out when things don't go their way and they're being delayed," Beale said.
Beale co-founded National Glazing Solutions in 2009. The company has completed or is currently working on security film projects at schools in more than 257 school districts around the country, including Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California.
In the Sunshine State, Beale said NGS has installed window film at schools in Orlando, Osceola County, Pinellas County, Sarasota County, Clay County, and eventually Palm Beach County.
"Kudos to Palm Beach. They're trying to be proactive and not reactive," Beale said.
Chief Mooney said that no matter what physical layers of security they add to schools, there's one element that's always vital.
"The most important piece of our security plan is the people that are involved in it," Mooney said.
According to a 2002 Window Security and Safety Survey by Campus Safety magazine, 43% of those polled said "their glass doors and windows are the security systems most likely to fail during an unauthorized intrusion," followed by doors and locks at 36%.
"Safety and security is always top of mind. We've been continuing to add layers of security," Burke said during the Nov. 1 meeting with the legislative delegation.
One of the most important layers has been the addition of metal detectors at four Palm Beach County high schools — Seminole Ridge Community High School, Palm Beach Lakes Community High School, John I. Leonard High School, and Palm Beach Gardens Community High School — over the summer and at the start of the school year in August.
Because of the success of the security devices, Burke in October said he plans to spend $2 million to purchase metal detectors for all 24 Palm Beach County high schools.
The superintendent said he wants to get 63 new metal detectors by the end of the school year, bringing the total number of metal detectors in Palm Beach County schools to 75.
According to Burke, the metal detector pilot program found that a student can pass through a machine in half a second, and the devices have been a deterrent for students bringing anything to campus that shouldn't be there.
"There was some concern about, would we be able to get 3,000 students into school on time passing through a metal detector? And we're working through that," Burke said on Nov. 1. "It's gone very well. So well that we are now rolling that out to all of our high schools over the course of this school year."
In addition, every School District of Palm Beach County employee now has a panic button on their ID badge, and Burke said the district has also worked to have a single point of entry at every school, along with more surveillance cameras, more card access door locks, ongoing fencing projects, and funding for guard houses at all high schools.
Scripps Only Content 2023