Some parents might be tempted to keep their children out of school this week in response to the Connecticut school shooting. Hillsborough county school leaders say please don't. Marked patrol cars parked in front of elementary schools Monday should not alarm parents and students. Hillsborough County Sgt. Christi Esquinaldo said they'll be there to offer an added sense of security.
"I'm confident that parents should feel confident taking their kids to school Monday," said Esquinaldo.
The increased presence at all public schools in the county follows Friday's school shooting. School Resource officers are usually only assigned to middle and high schools. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Tampa Police, Temple Terrace Police, and Plant City Police departments are assigning uniformed and plain clothes officers to patrol each campus through Friday.
Hillsborough Schools Spokesman Steve Hegarty said counselors will also be more visible this week.
"Just to reach out, be a friendly face, and say ‘we're here to talk to if you need to'," explained Hegarty.
A recorded phone message went out to all Hillsborough county parents Sunday night. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia explained the changes and offered words of assurance to worried parents.
"Send your kids to school," said Hegarty. "It doesn't make sense to wait a day or two days or three days. Send your kids to school because there are people there."
Tampa Police are also taking school security efforts to the sky. Chief Jane Castor ordered helicopters to patrol schools in the city throughout the week. The department is also offering refresher courses on emergency plans to all campuses if the principal requests it.