With the Sandy Hook tragedy still fresh for many, the Hillsborough County School board made a tough decision Tuesday not to increase security at elementary schools.
They voted down a plan that would have spent millions for more security personnel at every elementary campus. But they will pay a consultant $8,500 dollars to come in and take a look at what needs to change.
"I don't want to make any decision out of fear," said April Griffin, the board's chairwoman. "I understand that people want answers now. But we need to discuss this in a very comprehensive way … looking at all of our school safety from every single aspect that we can."
Board members said putting an additional 130 security guards or officers on campuses would come with a hefty price tag.
"The money is a huge issue," said board member Cindy Stuart. "Federal and state funds … while they may come for this … they are going to run out: $4.3 million dollars continuously in our budget. In 3 years are we going to be asking to fire 130 security officers?"
The Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police put more people at elementary schools after the shooting. This measure would've made more guards a permanent fixture. But only one board member seemed totally on-board with the Superintendent's deal on the table.
"We can never put a price tag on the lives of our students or our employees," said Doretha Edgecomb. "In the words of a sister of one of the young victims of Newtown … this is a new normal and regrettably this is the world in which we live so it does call for different measures."
Most, like Griffin, questioned if this was the right path.
"There were two officers at Columbine," she said. "Criminals are smart. They know how to work around. There were secure doors at Sandy Hook. The gunman blew them up with his weapons."
There are still officers on campus: SROs at high schools and middle schools. Plus, there will be extra patrols at elementary schools until the end of the semester at least.
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