Daytona Beach, FL – It’s time for pencils and books and teacher’s dirty looks, as the old saying goes.
Like all other school districts across the state, Flagler and Volusia have been pushing hard to come into compliance with a new state law created after the shooting deaths of 17 people – mostly students – at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland earlier this year.
That law requires some form of armed security on all campuses by the start of this school year and officials at both the local school districts are saying that will be the case for them.
Volusia County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrew Gant tells us 35 of the 49 people hired for the newly created “school guardian” job are fully trained and will be on the job by Monday. That number is eight short of the 44 needed for each elementary school in Volusia, but more will be trained in case of attrition or people needing time off for whatever reason.
“While the others are finishing, we’re providing deputies and higher ranks if needed to stand in and work special details on a temporary basis at several elementary schools,” Gant added. “In addition to those, we have 17 school resource deputies assigned to high schools, plus two supervisors.”
The school guardians – who were trained by VCSO but are actually employees of Volusia County Schools – will focus on the elementary schools while sworn law enforcement will be stationed at the district’s middle and high schools. Unlike actual officers or deputies, these guardians will not have arrest or detain powers but will be armed with guns in order to stop any threats.
Speaking on WNDB’s Volusia Today, VCS Chief Operating Officer Greg Akin says another training class of 15 or so guardians will begin on Monday.
In Flagler County, all schools will have deputies roaming the halls in a cost-sharing effort agreed upon earlier this year between the Sheriff’s Office and the school district, with the City of Palm Coast also chipping in some funding. That agreement also fully funds nine school crossing guard positions.
Unlike in Flagler, finding a way to pay for this new state mandate has been an issue with Volusia County Schools, especially since the district recently reported being in the red by around $4.45 million while also dipping into other areas financially to ensure funding for this school year.
Earlier this summer, the district sent letters signed by School Board Chair Linda Cuthbert and Superintendent Tom Russell to each city in Volusia County asking for them to cover 30% of the cost for staffing elementary schools with guardians.
Some cities – namely DeLand, Daytona Beach and South Daytona – already help VCS cover costs for school safety, while Volusia County agreed to add around $500,000 for the same purpose during a County Council meeting earlier this summer.
So far, most Volusia municipalities have not said if they will or won’t kick in some dollars, but the Deltona City Commission is reconsidering its stance after giving a firm “no” earlier this year.
Beyond that, the new state law does require active shooter training for all school personnel, including teachers and students. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office did a training like that for over a thousand teachers, administrators and school staff earlier this week at the Flagler Auditorium for the first time ever. FCSO also plans to do it again for students soon after the school year begins.