Manatee schools begin security survey

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BRADNETON--With the tragedy of Sandy Hook still fresh in their minds, authorities are doing everything they can to ensure a story like that never plays out in Manatee County.

"It has made us cognizant that we have to keep our children our number one priority either in a movie theater or at school," said Captain Warren Merriman of the Bradenton Police Department.

Tuesday, Bradenton police officials, along with the Sheriff's Office, began the exhaustive process of checking every school in Manatee County; making sure that each location is as safe as possible, both inside and out.

"What they're really doing is making a tremendous effort to be seen and to be visible," said interim superintendent David Gayler.

School officials say the effort is part of a comprehensive plan to find out what the district is doing well in terms of safety, and where there's room for improvement.

"The SWAT teams with the sheriff's department and the Bradenton police department are going to conduct a survey over the next couple of months of our critical incident plans and our schools, and...really look in every nook and cranny," said Gayler.

It's a challenge for any school district, even more so for one that's as cash-strapped as Manatee County.

"The money right now is extraordinarily scarce to be perfectly honest and I think the community knows that," said Gayler.

He says a small balance does exist that would allow the district to make immediate changes if authorities recommend it.

However he also says that part of this survey is to establish long-term security plans.

"We know school resource officers have been cut, in previous budgets, [so] we talked a little bit about how we might try and restore those," said Gayler.

The survey is expected to be delivered to school board officials in March, at which point the board will decide what action to take.