Nothing is more important to our community than the safety and security of all of our students. I think that is a sentiment shared by everyone in our county. I certainly believe it and I have no children in the schools.
The School Board is asking the voters to approve a $1.4 million referendum to engage the services of 15 School Resource Officers. That works out to about $90,000 per officer. Every public school, including Stanley Switlik, will presumably have an SRO. How the 6 charter schools in the county will be involved remains unclear.
I write that the Board intends to "engage the services" of 15 SRO's because it is unclear as to whether or not they will be employees of the District or continue to be contracted with the City of Key West and the Sheriff's Department. I believe that the public deserves to know that, along with more information regarding SRO's.
Currently, the District has contractual arrangements with the City and the Sheriff for SRO's, but the exact number and how much each is paid has never been made public, at least to my knowledge. The Board should release that information along with a full explanation of how the SRO program presently operates and any changes that may be in the offing should the referendum pass.
Board member John Dick has been reported to say that the current funding for SRO's will be released to provide improved security measures, school "hardening". How much are we talking about? What "hardening" procedures does the District have in mind? Will the funds be adequate or will more be necessary? No one is asking for intimate security details, but a general overview would be informative and valuable.
If the new SRO's are to be School District employees, will they be sworn officers and armed? If not, what will their status be? Again, I ask that the Board fully inform the voters so that they can make an intelligent decision. Some districts, Polk County in particular, are planning on having armed citizen volunteers on campuses. Is that a direction in which the Monroe County School District might wish to go?
In sum, I am urging the School Board to be fully open with the community when it comes to their plans for protecting our most precious resource, our children.