JACKSONVILLE - San Jose Schools lead Jacksonville charter schools in safety. Principal and Executive Director Alan Hall, along with one other staff member, are two of the first people to successfully complete the Jacksonville Sheriff Office’s new Guardian Program. This intensive tactical training program was established by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Act, which was signed into law March 09, 2018, as a response to the tragic shooting in South Florida last February.
One of the key requirements of the new law is that all Florida schools must have a law enforcement officer (in Jacksonville, that’s JSO), a school resource officer (Duval County Public Schools police officer), or have a certified Guardian on campus. Charter school administrators were surprised to learn, just a week before the new school year began, that armed security officers contracted to through private security firms were no longer lawful on school property. This was how The San Jose Schools had managed campus security in prior years.
Charter schools are public schools that are privately managed, which means they do not qualify for security services or funding with Duval County Public Schools. Charter schools’ best immediate option to comply with the new law was to contract with JSO. The cost to the charter schools has ranged between $41 and $60 per hour, depending on the rank of the officer, for the entire length of the school day. That’s an approximate cost to each charter school of $8,000 per month for security for the perimeter of their school buildings (not even covering security inside the hallways).
This was not an economically sustainable security solution, nor was it the best one for the safety of our students inside and outside the building.
The San Jose Schools, including San Jose Academy (grades 6-8) and San Jose Preparatory High School (grades 9-12), are housed in a single building at 4072 Sunbeam Road, in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville. The schools currently serves approximately 340 middle and high school students. They are known for their small-school environment, one-to-one technology, AP Capstone Diploma, and their flexibility to combine in-class and long-distance learning options. The school was founded in 2013 under different management. It has been self-managed by its board of directors since 2016.
Mr. Hall, also retired military, wanted to ensure that San Jose Schools could run its own security measures as soon as possible. He focused on getting participants registered for the first JSO Guardian Program, which finished Sept. 21. This was a 30-day program, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Many participants who started the program would not be eligible to complete it, based on the level of rigor. School staff members had to be off campus for the entire month to participate. It included tactical training, as well as psychological and diversity education.
For San Jose Schools, that meant Mr. Hall and Facilities Manager Scott Marquardt were engaged fully in their duty to become school Guardians. Mr. Hall expects to hire a third person who has graduated from this program to be a full-time Guardian on campus as soon as the JSO contract is completed.
“Please know that we do everything we can to provide our students with the safest environment possible to receive a quality education.” said Mr. Hall.
The Guardian Program is just one part of a holistic approach to campus safety
At San Jose Schools, here are some additional safety measures in use:
A newly contracted licensed mental health provider on site. A Student Services Department that has grown from one to four staff members. 25 new cameras for a total of 100 cameras inside and outside the building. New key control access installed on all doors. A new panic system that communicates directly from the school to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. In progress: There will be new security fencing installed around the campus perimeter, plus removal of trees in the front of the building for a full and unobstructed view of the campus. Increased, improved, more immediate communication available between teachers and parents via the new www.SanJoseSchool.org website and app.
We are excited to announce that the San Jose Schools have a new full-time licensed mental health therapist and social worker available to all of our students. A mental health professional on campus is indispensable. She will be able to recognize critical signs and provide knowledge about and access to appropriate services that serve the whole family. All teachers and school personnel have completed youth mental health first aid training during our inservice programs this week.
Student Services Department
Our Student Services Department has quadrupled in the 2018-19 school year. Often the best way to prevent problems (whether for an individual or on a school-wide basis) is to have plenty of educational support for our students and teachers.
In 2018-19 we have added a student services coordinator. She takes over scheduling, senior activities, guidance counseling and the new Parent Academy. Parent Academy is a once-a-month forum to educate parents and to receive valuable feedback that we can use to keep getting better. We have also hired a new math and reading coach. They join our director of special programs and our social worker.
Improved Security Technology
The San Jose Schools are going the EXTRA MILE to maximize security technology. We added 25 new cameras for a total of 100 on campus, and we have installed key control access on all the doors both inside and out and a "panic system” directly linked to JSO in cases of emergency.
We are also currently in the process of installing new fencing for the entire perimeter of the school property, plus an entry gate. You will see the trees removed in the front of our building. This will mean less chance of building damage during and after major tropical storms. It will make turning in and out of the school driveway much safer. It will also mean we can have an unobstructed view of the entire front property. Finally, the open space will allow for additions to our athletic clubs and physical education program.
New Law Makes School Threats a Felony Charge
Please review school safety information with children. A bomb threat - no matter what the person’s intention - leads to automatic expulsion. A school-wide threat, even one written on social media, is considered a second-degree felony. If a student were to do this, punishment would be out of the administration’s hands. The JSO would immediately arrest the offender, and second-degree felonies are punishable with jail time and fines. Negative intent is NOT required for a threat to be considered a crime. Any and all threats are referred to mental health services.