Vote today over armed officers in elementary schools

12:51 PM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- School board members will vote Tuesday over whether armed officers will become a permanent fixture at Hillsborough County elementary schools.

In a live interview during The Morning Show on 10 News, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said her proposal balances her belief in how best to keep children safe with the expensive cost of hiring more than 100 officers.

Elia's proposal would pay to put police officers and sheriff's deputies on elementary campuses for the last part of this school year.

Security officers employed by the school district would then start a full-time role at the schools in the next school year.

The security workers would be called "resource officers" and serve a similar function to the armed school resource officers and deputies who currently patrol full-time at all middle and high schools in the county, Elia said.

Adding the new personnel is expected to cost $4.1 million next year, with about $400,000 of that going to equip the new staff. Maintaining the security staff would cost about $3.7 million in the years after that.

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"This is a difficult decision. I think our board is weighing it very carefully, talking to people in the community," Elia said, acknowledging that the extra security cost is money that now won't be spent on classroom tools or teacher pay.

"One of the key things is that people need to be secure in schools. It's one of the goals of Hillsborough County Schools. Out of four, safety is one of our major goals.

"We feel like this is a balanced plan that can support our schools and staff, and our parents and students."

Elia is also proposing other security measures and spending at Tuesday's 3 p.m. Hillsborough County School Board meeting. These changes would apply to this current school year.

Hiring an outside school security expert to review the district's facilities and plans would cost $8,500. Eliminating security gaps that come up during that review would cost much more -- an estimated $1.2 million.

For a cost to the school board of $700,000, the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office will step up their already enhanced presence at elementary schools through the end of this school year.

That move would lay the groundwork for the new team of 130 district-employed security officers at elementary schools proposed for next school year.

Finally, Elia is asking the district to fund extra crisis training for school workers at a cost of $10,000 for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year and then $30,000 for future years.

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