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District in Florida holds off on plan to add more security officers at elementary schools

District in Florida holds off on plan to add more security officers at elementary schools

Officials with HIllsborough County schools delay hiring more officers as they assess the security upgrades that already have been carried out.

A plan to post security officers at every public elementary school in the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district has been put on hold so that the district's new superintendent can evaluate the first phase of the program.

The Tampa Tribune reports that Superintendent Jeff Eakins has decided not to hire additional officers for the coming school year because he wants his staff to research how the guards spent their time on the job in the first year.

In late 2013, the school board voted 4-3 to spend $815,000 hiring 20 new mobile officers, each one patrolling clusters of elementary schools until more could be hired. The money also paid for two security specialists, and a federal grant supplied 10 more elementary officers. The move was widely supported by elementary principals, who said an officer would make campuses more secure and provide role models for their students.

It was the first phase of the $4.5 million plan proposed by then-Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, and funding for subsequent phases was to be approved in succeeding years. Thirty-eight officers were to be added in the second phase. The school board fired Elia in January amid criticism that she failed to communicate fully with members.

The first phase was approved about a year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, which sparked a national debate over school security and gun laws. The three Hillsborough board members who opposed adding officers cited the cost as a major concern.

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