In a major announcement about school security, Hillsborough County school and law enforcement leaders said they planned to put a trained, armed security officer in every school in the district by the end of the summer.
The huge agenda comes on the heels of a new state mandate that requires armed officers in every Florida school, which was put in place following the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14.
More than 100 elementary schools currently do not have armed officers, according to officials, but every district middle and high school is appropriately staffed.
“When we at the school, we in a community. It’s like being in my home. So if you come into my home to hurt anyone, of course, I’m going to protect it,” said Hillsborough County school security officer Dave Weaver-Rogers.
The retired Tampa police officer, who patrols five elementary schools each week, is stretched thin. But that should change under the new plan.
“This plan is right for our community,” said Hillsborough County School District superintendent Jeff Eakins.
Roughly $6 million in state funds will be used to hire and train the new school officers, leaders said. The same amount will be dished out every year, Eakins said.
The district has 176 elementary schools and only a handful are currently staffed with armed personnel. A help wanted sign is up for the dozens of positions.
“Our ideal candidate is anyone who puts the safety of children at the forefront. Anyone who has a passion for service,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
The new officers must undergo 132 hours of intense firearms training, psychological exams and weapons qualifications, among other requirements.
All vacancies must be filled by the start of the 2018-2019 school year, according to the new state law.
If the new officers are not ready by then, local police officers and deputies will fill in.
“At the beginning, it will be manpower intensive to law enforcement only because we’re going to fill these schools,” Chronister said.
Once on campus, their only task is to keep students safe.
Eakins is confident the plan is right.
“The voice of the parents, of the students is for change, and the timing of the legislative session really brought all things together to move this agenda forward,” he said.