BRADENTON, Fla. – The Manatee County School District is tightening school security in a district that’s had nine false school threats at seven schools and seven students arrested since the Parkland shooting.
The school board, sheriff’s office and local police departments have committed to putting an officer or deputy in each elementary school and adding a second to the high schools.
The district approved the plan at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Earlier estimates topped $1 million for adding the 35 officers for the remaining 60 school days, but the plan approved has a final price tag of $597,800.
Each officer will be paid $35 per hour.
“We think the easiest way to do this is off duty overtime," said Dave Bristow, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. "That way it will not affect the number of deputies on the road or the number of detectives in the detective bureau,”
The money will come from the district's general fund reserves. The school board will then reimburse the agencies involved.
School board chairman Scott Hopes said it's money set aside for "emergencies" just like this; however, he said the district is still hoping to get at least partially reimbursed by the state.
Here's where the extra manpower is coming from:
- 27 Manatee County Sheriff's Office
- 7 Bradenton Police Department
- 1 Palmetto Police Department
Parents and others in the community expressed their support for extra officers before the meeting.
“I’m willing to pay the extra whatever it takes. These kids need protection,” said George Martinez.
Sharon Nomikoudis said adding more SROs is the best option. “Kids' safety is the most important thing. I don’t believe it should be the teachers doing it.”
“I think the kids need protection, all they can get. If it costs the average person more money, they should pay it,” said August Bottiger.
However, some parents argued the added costs still don't address what they feel is the root of the problem.
"I would prefer that money go into instructional materials and supplies in hiring more teachers to reduce class size but clearly that's not going to happen," said Bridget Mendel, whose two sons attend Lakewood Ranch High School.
"As long as we have cowards in Tallahassee who will not abide by what their constituents are asking them to do ... there's not much we can do."
These school resource officers won’t be your typical SROs. There isn’t enough time to train them.
“The deputy in there will have all the training as far as active shooter training a deputy would have but not the specialized training of a SRO," Bristow said. "He’ll be there making sure the school is safe, patrolling that school. He’ll walk the beat, talk to people pick up information. If someone said something about bringing a weapon, it’ll hopefully get back to that deputy.”
Gov. Rick Scott proposed putting an SRO in every Florida schools. The sheriff’s office estimates an SRO’s salary is between $50,000 and $60,000 on average.
The district hopes the state will help pay for the extra security but it will have to wait for legislators to decide.
The Manatee school district chose not to wait for the Legislature and take local action sooner than later to help protect kids.
10News reporter Josh Sidorowicz contributed to this report.
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