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Port Orange Observer Monday, May 14, 2018 10 months ago

School district comes up with plan to supply schools with more armed security

Senate Bill 7026 requires one armed person on each campus.
by: Nichole Osinski Community Editor

With Senate Bill 7026 passed and many school districts changing the way campus safety is handled, Volusia officials are taking a look at what measures will have to be taken within the county. 

On Monday, May 14, during the Roundtable of Volusia County Elected Officials meeting, Volusia Schools Superintendent James Russell and Greg Akin, Volusia School District chief operating officer, presented the district's proposed plan to improve school security in alignment with section 26 of the bill. 

Among the required changes is the requirement that there must be one armed person on each campus. 

"Volusia County Schools unequivocally would like to have either a deputy sheriff in every school or municipal police officer," Russell said.

However, more security at schools means additional funding, something Russell said the district is currently lacking. He added that there is also the problem of bringing in additional officers as there has been a shortage at police departments. To combat these issues the district has come up with three options. 

The first option would be contracting with the sheriff's department for school rescue deputies; a second option would be contracting with local police departments for school safety officers; a third option would be appointing certain volunteer school employees under the School Marshal Program as armed "school guardians."

Russell said the district would be in favor of hiring former military members or law environment officers, all of whom would have to go through background checks. According to Russell, adding 37 school guardians, paid $30,000 a year plus benefits, would cost about $4.7 million. 

Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette had concerns about how one person would cover an entire campus and how they would be trained to secure the different schools. 

"The layout of the campuses and the different scenarios, this is not as simple as it sounds," Burnette said.

But to follow the legislation, a plan has to be in place by July 1.

According to Akin, the funding for the school guardian program comes from the state, which has set aside $60 million to train candidates. Individuals who are a part of the program would also need a concealed weapons permit. 

Currently, there are 70 public schools but only 26 school resource officers. In Port Orange, there are 10 public schools, 10,300 students and is in need of 6.5 SROs or school resource deputies, according to the district. Ormond Beach has six public schools and will need five SROs or SRDs. 

"What we'd like to see is a law enforcement officer or deputy in all of our middle and high schools," Akin said. "And this marshal program will be implemented in all of our elementary schools."

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