The changes are part of a bigger project of making the schools in Okaloosa County more safe and secure.

If you’ve visited Destin Middle School in the last couple of weeks since Christmas break, you may have noticed a few differences in the front office.

The changes are part of a bigger project of making the schools in Okaloosa County more safe and secure.

“Everybody knows the importance of safety in schools,” said Destin Principal Grant Meyer.

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Due to legislation in the last couple of years and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland in February of 2018 that left 17 dead and 17 injured, safety is at the forefront of school officials’ minds.

“The school district has really put in place some safety measures that are going to take some time to do, but this is our first step in doing a single point of entry into Destin Middle School,” Meyer said.

Over the Christmas break, renovations were made to the lobby of the office in order to make it the single point of entry.

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Meyer explained there will be a door facing the front of the school, instead of the current side door to the office, plus a video camera to help identify people in order to be buzzed in when they come to visit.

Once in the lobby area of the office, the walls and windows will be bulletproof. And from the office area there will be another door people will have to go through before they can be buzzed onto campus.

In addition to the changes in the office area, Destin Middle will be getting new fencing around the perimeter of the school as another layer of security.

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Meyer said there was a lot of debate with various organizations and law enforcement agencies, but an 8-foot fence was recommended. The fence will go around the entire school and the football.

“We’re looking at maybe aluminum fencing where aesthetically it looks better on the front side and backside of the school,” Meyer said, noting the rest may be chain-link fencing.

As for the buses unloading in the back and the car drop off out front, Meyer said there will be a staff member at the open gates in the mornings and at 9 a.m. When the bell rings, the gates will close.

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At that point, if a student arrives after the bell they will have to go through the single point of entry in the front office.

These safety precautions are not just happening at Destin Middle.

Meyer said Destin is in Phase 1B, while the high schools were part of Phase 1 and have already started the process of single entry and working out the fencing situation.

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“It’s taking longer than everybody realized to do it, but we are in the process,” he said.

The fence and gates are more to keep people out than to keep people in.

“It’s to monitor who comes on campus more securely,” he said, noting they really haven’t had any problems at Destin Middle.

Meyer says they hope to have everything in place by the start of the next school year.