HAINES CITY, FLA - The Haines City Police Department partnered with the Florida Highway Patrol in order to guarantee all of the schools in the city were covered by law enforcement personnel.
There are eight schools in Haines City. Chief Jim Elensky said some of them have full-time school resource officers, while the others do not.
As of this week, the schools without a school resource officer will see an FHP trooper on duty, when they are not on a call.
“I’m going to ensure that everybody (is) safe for the remainder of the school year,” Chief Elensky said.
The chief said he is already thinking ahead to next school year. He wants to see all of the schools covered by a school resource officer, but they need to figure out funding.
Chief Elensky believes he found a temporary solution to cover the schools in Haines City this year thanks to help from the FHP. School safety became a major point of discussion this year after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“We’re almost at 24,000 in Haines City and we have police to support that, but when you talk about adding an SRO to each and every school, that does put a lot of pressure on our police. But, it’s my priority….the student safety is my priority for this school year and it’s going to be like that for next school year. I’m just hoping the funding comes along with it,” Chief Elensky said.
According to FHP, the only other request for their help in the Tampa Bay area was made by Hernando County.
Meanwhile the Polk County Public Schools Superintendent, Jacqueline Byrd, recorded a video about school safety posted on YouTube. She made it clear this is about funding too.
“I can’t do it without adequate funding from the state. Please Governor Scott and members of the Florida Legislature, put our students first and allocate the funding to protect them,” Superintendent Byrd said.
She said to have one school resource officer at every school in the district, they would need more funding. She said they would need about $5 million per year. Superintendent Byrd said right now they spend more than $2.6 million per year on school resource officers.
“I will not support or recommend any measure that seeks to arm our teachers or staff. Instead I implore our Governor and elected officials to provide adequate funding for at least one school resource officer on every campus and more at our high schools where the student population is in the thousands,” Superintendent Byrd said.
Superintendent Byrd is also asking for funding to pay for mental health counselors and better security features, including metal detectors and surveillance cameras. She said they conduct safety inspections. It helps them identify any security needs. She said they continue conducting drills too, preparing students and staff for a possible incident like an active shooter.