The School Board hopes to hire 30 people by August to secure elementary schools.
With its final approval this week, the Sarasota County School Board gave Sarasota County Schools the go-ahead to begin hiring 30 people for the first phase of its internal police force.
This solidifies something the district began working toward in mid-April, in an effort to avoid contracting with local law enforcement agencies for security and school resource officers. The goal is to have a command staff and 24 officers hired and trained by the first day of school in August to staff district elementary schools. By the next school year, 26 more people would be hired to staff middle and high schools.
Board chair Bridget Ziegler and member Eric Robinson voted against the organizational chart.
“This is a heavy lift, and the implementation in haste is counterproductive to the goal we’re trying to achieve,” Ziegler said. “I still believe there are too many unknowns for me to go forward and support this.”
The new organizational chart restructures the existing Department of Safety Security and Emergency Management to include the internal police force. Under a new Executive Director position, which will likely be filled by current director of the department Mike Andreas, are three managers: the chief of police, who would oversee the force, a technology manager and an operations manager.
The School Board approved at a May 1 meeting the job descriptions for a chief of police and police sergeant, and a district spokesperson said they’ve already received applications. At the May 15 meeting, job descriptions were approved for the executive director of safety, security and emergency management and school resource officer.
Andreas assured the School Board that the district would work closely with local law enforcement agencies to fill in gaps.
“We will be a very collaborative community partner. We will send open invitations, work with all of the agencies in this area to make sure that we do what’s right for the kids,” he said. “It’s all about that goal. It’s all about protecting students and staff.”
School Avenue update
The Sarasota County School Board unanimously voted to extend the hours a segment of School Avenue is closed on school days.
The district said the street, which bisects the Sarasota High School campus, provides a security challenge. The portion through campus is closed to vehicular traffic during school hours, but pedestrians and bicyclists can go through at any time. A revision to an agreement with the city of Sarasota would extend the closure to 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on school days and prohibit all external access to the street, not just vehicular access.
The city must also approve those changes. The board is scheduled to discuss the agreement May 21.
School officials hope to institute the changes before the start of the next school year. At the same time, the district is also seeking a permanent vacation of School Avenue.