Students and faculty weren’t the only ones excited to go back to Plant City schools Friday morning.
Tomlin Middle School and Burney Elementary School celebrated the first day of the new school year with visits from Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Plant City Police Chief Ed Duncan. The pair talked to students about their success in the classroom and getting to know their school resource officers.
At Burney, Eakins spoke to Miranda Rasner’s fifth-grade class and encouraged the students to keep up their good, hard work in their last year of elementary school. Coincidentally, he was Rasner’s assistant principal when she herself was a fifth-grader. Eakins also praised Plant City schools and students for putting up some of the strongest graduation rates in the county.
“I think it’s an exciting day. We know anxiety comes with that and a little bit of nerves, so we’re just asking everyone to be patient on the first day,” Eakins said. “Our goal is to teach and for our students to learn. We’re getting great results across this district and especially in the Plant City area… Burney Elementary here made some great gains academically this past year.”
Burney and other elementary schools in the area are slated to have resource officers on campus for the first time, so Duncan and the Plant City Police Department want to make sure students feel comfortable getting to know these officers and trusting them with any information that may be important to school safety. In the wake of tragedies such as the Parkland mass shooting, Duncan said law enforcement’s approach to the new school year is adapting to tighten up security measures.
“I use the analogy of 9/11 had an impact on the airports, the school shootings around the country have had an impact on the way we do business in our schools,” Duncan said. “The bottom line is all of these officers, their priority is to make certain that they can provide a safe environment for not only the students but for the staff so they can do what they’re paid to do, which is educate our students. At the end of the day, the most important resource we have is what you see in these schools every day. They’re our future.”