Elementary school students in Hillsborough County will see uniformed law enforcement at their schools when they return to class on Monday.
Under a new plan launched after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies and Tampa Police officers will patrol elementary schools throughout the district through the end of the school year.
Previously, high schools and middle schools in the district had school resource officers but only some of the elementary schools had officers. Starting Monday, all the schools will have a law enforcement presence.
"They'll be walking around. During drop-off and let-out they'll be out front," said Lt. Chad Chronister. "We want to have a uniformed presence to make sure everyone feels safe."
The sheriff's office will have to bring in officers on overtime to cover the school assignments, costing nearly $2 million through the end of the school year.
"It's a monumental cost but our sheriff feels that the safety of our children is priceless," Chronister said.
There will have to be discussions about how to handle the cost and staffing of security in the future, said April Griffin, chair of the Hillsborough County School Board.
"We are going to have to have conversations about it and I appreciate the partnership of our local law enforcement agencies," she said.
Griffin also urged parents to talk to their children "about looking out for each other in their own communities," and said students should go to a trusted adult if they hear about anything suspicious.
"That's the most important thing that anybody can do, is keep their ear to the ground, report things if they hear them happening," she said. "And we adults will take it very seriously."
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