Palm Beach County Educators Discuss Heat Safety, Security, and AP Psychology Ahead of School Restart

Palm Beach County, Fla. — As the first day of school in Palm Beach County approaches, education leaders gathered on Wednesday to address the public and highlight key issues such as oppressive heat, enhanced school security, and the controversy surrounding Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology.

With an excessive heat warning in effect and temperatures reaching triple digits, Superintendent Mike Burke emphasized the importance of keeping students hydrated. Recognizing the limitations of the school district’s reach when it comes to students walking to school or waiting for the school bus, Burke urged parents to assist by providing water for their children and, if possible, driving them to school.

In order to protect student-athletes from the heat, all Palm Beach County high schools adhere to the Zachary Martin Act, which provides guidelines for heat safety. Thermometers are used to monitor temperatures and adjustments are made to workouts as necessary. Additionally, electrolytes and cold water immersion options are available on all campuses.

Addressing the issue surrounding AP Psychology, Burke announced that Palm Beach County schools will offer the course despite earlier guidance from the College Board advising against it. The course was questioned due to a section that deals with gender identity and sexual orientation, which may conflict with state law. However, after discussions with Florida’s education chancellor and the College Board, it was determined that the course could be taught in its entirety while ensuring age and developmentally appropriate content.

To enhance school security, metal detectors are being tested at four Palm Beach County schools: Seminole Ridge Community High School, Palm Beach Lakes Community High School, John I. Leonard High School, and Palm Beach Gardens Community High School. The success of the pilot program will determine whether metal detectors will be implemented district-wide.

Chief Sarah Mooney of the School District of Palm Beach County’s Police Department emphasized the importance of reporting suspicious activity and utilizing the Fortify Florida app. While technology plays a role in safety and security, Mooney highlighted the human factor as the most critical component.

In an effort to improve transportation services, the school district is piloting a program called “Here Comes The Bus” at seven schools. This app allows parents to track their child’s school bus, ensuring better communication and peace of mind. Despite a shortage of approximately 100 school bus drivers, the district assures that all 475 bus routes will be covered on the first day of school.

The new academic year also marks the opening of two new schools. Dr. Joaquín García High School, located in western Lake Worth, will focus on business information technology and medical sciences. West Boynton Middle School, located off Boynton Beach Boulevard, will specialize in medical and information technology programs and feature a financial literacy classroom with a live stock ticker.

Amidst these changes, students will be issued a new universal ID badge that will serve multiple purposes, including library book checkouts, cafeteria payments, and bus access. Furthermore, in compliance with a new state law, the social media platform TikTok is now banned on district-owned devices and the school district’s digital network.

As the school year commences, Palm Beach County education leaders encourage patience and cooperation from the community during the initial days which often present unique challenges. With comprehensive measures in place, the district aims to provide a safe and fruitful academic experience for all students.

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