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With School Just Days Away, Hillsborough Still Hiring New Officers

Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins stands at a podium.
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins

School districts across Florida are scrambling to meet a deadline to install security officers in every single public school.

The February shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County led to the new state law. But with the first day of school in Hillsborough County just days away the district is still trying to hire 210 police officers to protect its elementary schools.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins said Monday that those new hires will need more than 100 hours of training before taking over on-campus security.

So when classes start Friday, the district will have Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies and officers from Tampa and Plant City Police filling the gap.

"We will have an officer on each campus from the first day of school onward," he said during Monday’s ‘Back To School’ address held at Valrico Elementary.

This spring, Florida's legislature required that all public schools have on-campus security by the start of the school year. Hillsborough and many other districts spent the summer scrambling to create a plan and to get it in place.

One area that will be ready, Eakins said, is the district’s secondary schools.  There's already school resource officers on each campus, he said.

“You will continue to see deputies from Hillsborough County Sheriff's office and Tampa Police Department at our middle schools and high schools,” he said. “That will not go away.”

Each school district in Florida was able to create their own security plan. While some counties like Hillsborough are adding staff to small school district police forces, others are contracting with local law enforcement agencies to have officers patrol campuses.

I’m the lucky one who guides the WUSF News team as it shares news from across Florida and the 13 amazing counties that we call the greater Tampa Bay region.