After continuing the law enforcement presence at Seminole Heights schools when students returned from winter break, school officials announced a long-term plan on Wednesday to continue enhanced security measures in the wake of last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
During a press conference at the Raymond O. Shelton School Administrative Center in downtown Tampa before PTA officials and local principals, schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia discussed a "multi-faceted proposal" that will be brought to the school board at the next meeting on Jan. 15.
The plan, which school officials outlined in a document passed out to the crowd, is as follows:
- Bringing in national security expert Michael Dorn to review safety and security protocols and school access control. Currently, local law enforcement and school security staff are reviewing access at school entrances and exits. The cost to hire Dorn is $8,500.
- Securing the remaining 10 percent of schools - 90 percent are "appropriately access controlled" - at an estimated cost of about $1.2 million.
- Hiring an additional 130 security personnel so that each school in Hillsborough County has armed and trained officials at school. The security personnel will perform similar duties to school resource officers and school resource deputies. Those who may be hired include retired law enforcement officers, people with military backgrounds or inexperienced residents interested in being trained, Elia said. The Tampa Police Department and the sheriff's office added security for the 2012-13 school year, giving school board officials time to hire, train and recruit the additional security personnel. The cost to add 50 security personnel for the 2012-13 school year is $700,000, and $4.1 million for 2013-14.
- Continue crisis management training of administrators, faculty, students and staff. The cost is estimated at $40,000 through 2013-14.
"I wish that it wasn't necessary," said Elia. "Our lives have changed over the past 10-15 years. After 9-11, things were different in this country."
Carolyn Hill, PTA president at Just Elementary, 1315 W. Spruce St. in Tampa, said her school currently has a School Resource Officer assigned, who she says "plays a vital role in our school for security." Even so, Hill said she is open to the school board's plan of adding security to enhance safety.
"It's very different now than when I went to school," she said. "Schools are just a microcosm of society. I wish we didn't have to go here ... it's a critical we step up to the plate and put other things in place. We've got a great system, but security is paramount."
Sheri Bryan, a member of the PTA at Oak Grove Elementary, 6315 N. Armenia Ave. in Tampa, said uncertainty in today's society makes additional security necessary. She said Elia's plan is a good start.
"Until they get this implemented, we really don't know what else can be done," she said. "Hopefully, this is it."
School board members were told of the plan in phone calls from Elia on Tuesday night. Some members told Tampabay.com that they would have liked to have been told earlier.
Cindy Stuart said she would have liked to have been given the chance for input earlier.
"It's the cart before the horse," she said, according to the website. "It puts us in a position where if we vote against it, we are against school safety. And if we vote for it, we could be fiscally irresponsible. That's a lot of money."
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