LAND O' LAKES, Fla. -- Pasco County schools says it’s come up with an innovative hybrid solution to try to put armed security on each of its campuses by the beginning of the next school year.
Instead of going with school resource officers at every school, the district’s four dozen elementary schools will instead get armed security guards.
They aren't law enforcement officers, but they will be trained and they will carry guns.
“The cost alone of SROs was prohibitive. I would have preferred to have had SROs in our elementary schools, but we just can’t afford it,” said Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning.
Fully deputized SROs will remain on patrol, as they have been, at the district’s middle and high schools.
The safety guards will cost about $550,000 less.
They won’t have the power to make arrests. They won’t have marked cruisers.
“But they will be there to police the campus, and there to help with disturbances at dropoff and pickup,” said Browning. “Yes, I feel very secure with the school safety guard concept.”
The district also reiterated that at this time and has no intention of participating in the so-called guardian program which allows non-classroom personnel to become trained and armed.
The safety guards, they believe, are a much better compromise.
Several relatives of elementary school kids were already giving the idea mixed grades.
“Me, as a parent, I would like to know my babies are protected,” said Koya Keith, “But when you think about from the spending standpoint, I’m sure that's something that we might be concerned about.”
“My opinion is it’s better to have a full-blown deputy,” said Gee Russel, “And with kids’ safety it’s not something you want to save money on.”
Pasco school officials say they will immediately post notices to fill the positions, with the ambitious goal of hiring them in time to start training by the first week of June.
“We are hopeful that we will find retired law enforcement or military folks that have familiarity with firearms and public service,” said Browning.
“I think it’s good for our kids to be protected. That’s all,” said Jennifer Newhall, whose daughter attends an elementary school in Land O’ Lakes.
Even with the savings and money from the state, the district says the program will still cost them a half-million dollars they don’t have.
Browning says he’s confident they’ll be able to whittle away at that deficit as they make their way through the budget process.
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