HILLSBOROUGH, Fla. (WFLA) – Thousands of students head back to class next week.
Eight counties including Hillsborough, go back to school on Monday.
Superintendent Jeff Eakins will address staff and teachers during his annual Back To School message at Sickles High School. Friday morning.
Superintendent Eakins plans to touch on teacher shortages, new incentives for teachers and adopting a mental health plan.
Upgrades were made at a number of schools over the summer.
District officials focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Crosswalks will be outside at all middle schools.
Students will see new pedestrian signals, near other schools and blank-out signs to catch the attention of aggressive drivers.
Several security upgrades are complete.
New this year, security vestibules can be found in four of the district high schools.
Plant City, Chamberlain, Leto and Hillsborough High.
When a visitor comes to the new entry way, they’ll have to be buzzed in.
Once inside the vestibule, they’ll need to show ID, then be scanned.
If everything checks out, the doors will unlock, granting them access inside.
“We looked at some of our older schools and most of them were high schools and they had some vulnerabilities on campus and once they came into a door they were able to just walk in,” said security chief. John Newman.
21 schools received new air conditioning units.
Last November, voters approved a half-penny sales tax that paid for schools to replace air conditioning units that have been aging and failing for years.
District leaders are also warning students about the dangers of vaping.
This year, the district along with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office teamed up to launch “Put Down The Pen” campaign.
Florida has seen a 58 percent increase in vaping among teens in the past couple of years.
The superintendent said he wants to bring down those numbers and hold students accountable.
“It is important to help them understand consequences and make great choices. We want to lead them to great choices because ultimately there’s some free will here,” Superintendent Jeff Eakins.