MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Manatee County school district says safety is a top priority for the community. While the district has had security officers in the middle and high schools, they're now working to make sure every elementary school has an armed security officer by the first day of school.
The Manatee County School Board approved nearly $2 million to go toward hiring armed security guards at every elementary school at the end of July, taking a proactive approach to safety and security.
The district is still determining the cost of the two additional student resource officers and the 33 armed security officers, but they estimate it will total around $1.1 million.
The vision of this project is that the officers will not be intrusive, but rather will work closely with school principals and provide an educational component for the students as well — encouraging positive, trusting relationships between children and law enforcement.
It has been less than a week since the Manatee County School Board meeting where the plan to add armed security officers in each elementary school began.
"We are working on that effort to actually have armed security officers in the schools on day one of this academic year," says Steve Valley of Manatee County School board.
But with less than two weeks until the first day of school, the district is actively working to find the right fit.
On Monday, a request for proposal was put out for security companies that meet the wants required by the district.
"These efforts are in direct response to the community's request from a survey that they filled out during the strategic plan process."
While residents and parents surveyed found safety to be a number one priority, there are still mixed reactions about actually putting armed security in the elementary schools.
"You’re looking for more trouble bringing that in than preventing trouble," one parent said.
Other parents feel more comfortable knowing there will be an armed security presence. "I do agree with that, just because of all the bad things that you hear in the news, with people being able to come in and do whatever with the shooting."
While Manatee County is implementing the armed security in their elementary schools, Sarasota County continues their school resource officer presence in their middle and high schools.
While a committee reviews the proposals, the school district is actively working to make sure there are security personnel in each school on the first day back. Their goal is to have the outsourced security officers in place within the first month of school.
While the school district will not put a specific number on how much it will cost, it is widely speculated it will be in the millions. The funds are coming out of the 13 million dollar surplus they have projected for this year's budget.