Hillsborough School District Superintendent MaryEllen Elia announced her plan to implement new security measures in schools across the district during a press conference Wednesday.
The proposal includes the addition of an armed guard at every elementary school in district, with the exception of charter schools.
The new security personnel would be in addition to the school resource deputies and officers who recently began patrolling the district's elementary schools during the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up times, in response to the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The armed guards that Elia is proposing in the elementary schools would also be in addition to the school resource deputies and officers that have been present at Hillsborough County middle and high schools for some time.
"It will mean that we will have armed and trained personnel in all of our schools. They will perform duties similar to the ones performed by the SROs (school resource officers) and SRDs (school resource deputies) in our middle and high schools," Elia explained.
The district would hire about 130 people to train as armed personnel. Their roles would include "patrols, immediate response, working to develop neighborhood crime watches in each school community, instructing students in their involvement in crime prevention strategies, law enforcement, crisis management and anti-bullying programs," according to the district.
Officials say they would carefully screen and train each applicant. They would also undergo criminal background checks.
Hillsborough County Schools Director of Security David Friedberg says the district would consider a variety of potential hires.
"We're looking for retired law enforcement. We're looking for military backgrounds. We're looking for young and inexperienced, as well, that we can train," Friedberg said.
If the school board approves Elia's plan, the district would begin looking for the new security staff right away.
Superintendent Elia says she also wants to improve security to entrances and exits, or school access control, at 10 percent of schools in the district, identified by a nationally-recognized school security expert as needing better measures. That's about 25 schools. Gorrie Elementary School, the oldest building in the district, is one of them.
"We're looking at our fences. We're making sure that our gates are continually locked," said Gorrie Principal Marjie Sandler.
Parents we talked to welcome the added security.
"The world is changing and people need to change with it," PTA member Kenneth Bryan told FOX 13.
Monica Shogreen has two girls attending elementary school in Hillsborough County. She says they're aware of the tragedy at Sandy Hook and comforted by the presence of law enforcement and the possibility of added protection announced today.
"It can help foster that good community, a sense of citizenship, which I think that our elementary school could use," said Shogreen, who is also involved in the PTA.
The superintendent's plan also calls for more training for teachers and students on how to react in a security crisis.
Elia proposes taking $2 million from the district's $100 million emergency contingency fund to pay for security enhancements from now until June. The enhanced security measures would then cost a total of $8 million more over the next two school years. Elia says those dollars could be included in the regular budget.
The school board will take up Elia's plan at its regular meeting Tuesday.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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