MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A crowd of parents and employees from the Ben Gamla Charter School South Broward on the campus of the Jewish Community Center in Plantation packed into the Broward School Board Tuesday for an emergency hearing.
The focus centered on why the school didn’t have a safe school officer on campus as required by law on Monday and didn’t have one scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday.
The School Board heard pleas from parents.
“I would hope you would reconsider this and let this school stay open,” said Nicole Pitts.
The School Board also heard from the founder of the Ben Gamla Charter School South Broward, Peter Deutsch.
“Not one student was ever at risk on that campus,” Deutsch said.
Parents, teachers and young students paraded to the podium to extol the virtues of the school from an academic and safety standpoints. They said there is a single point of entry, an armed officer at the front of the JCC and multiple layers of security on campus to be in proximity of children.
However, School Board members said the law requires a safe school officer on campus from bell to bell each day.
“This is a state law and we take it very seriously,” said School Board Member Patricia Good.
The school board dealt with a similar problem at another charter school just last week and is concerned this might become a recurring problem.
“Having to make a decision to keep a school open or for the district to take over is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” said School Board Member Donna Korn.
But the School Board seemed reassured that in Ben Gamla’s case the school suspended the principal and took steps to have the campus covered for the rest of the year.
“As a board, we have confirmed that BSO will be on campus until the end of the week, August 30th,” said Michelle Gerson, Ben Gamla Board Member. “We have additionally contracted with a certified Broward County approved guardian.”
The school did have a contract with Plantation Police to provide coverage but it was a voluntary program and police officers didn’t sign up to cover all of the shifts.
“It’s a voluntary system and I can’t force the officers to sign up for the detail,” said Plantation Police Chief Howard Harrison. “No one signed up for it.”
Ultimately, the School Board decided to allow Ben Gamla Charter School a chance to work out a monitoring system with the school district to make sure a safe school officer is on campus each day.
“They took immediate and swift action and they made changes,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. “Any outcome that is positive for children and families is a decision that I think is a good one.”
The decision pleased the Ben Gamla community.
“We’re happy. We’re relieved,” said parent Joma McLeod.
Renaldo Holder said he understands the focus on safety believes Ben Gamla is working hard to protect his children and provide a good education for the school community.
“They said they’ll be monitoring the schools and I’ll be monitoring along with them just to make sure my child continues to be able to go to a top-notch school,” Holder said.
The School Board made clear they want to see that each charter schools has a long term plan in place to have a safe school officer on campus. The School Board also wants to make sure the charter schools are providing that information to the school district.