INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Sheriff’s deputies will remain at their assigned middle and high schools now that a formal agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and the Indian River County School Board has been finalized.
The agreement will cost the School District nearly $350,000 in half-salaries for the School Resource Officers. During the budget process over the summer, funding for the officers had been cut, but staff reconsidered and brought the item back for further discussion.
In the meantime, School Resource Officers had been working at their assigned schools since the school year started, without an agreement.
While School Board members agreed that having an officer stationed at each of the middle and high schools, they did not agree on how they should fund them.
“These times have forced us to look” at the expenses, School Board member Debbie MacKay said at a recent School Board meeting.
The funding source the board has tapped to fund its portion of the School Resource Officers’ salaries, Safe Schools, is considered a flexible account.
MacKay told her fellow board members that those funds could be used in the classroom to cover some of the items the board had to cut from its budget.
In exchange for eliminating or cutting back on the number of school officers, MacKay suggested school staff could fulfill some of the officers’ duties.
Board member Claudia Jimenez disagreed, explaining that there are certain actions School Resource Officers can take that district staff is legally not allowed.
Earlier, in a board discussion, member Carol Johnson cited a survey conducted of middle school students. Students who participated in the survey listed school safety as a top concern.
Johnson added that students cannot learn when they do not feel safe.
The board member also said that the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the School District remains very good and by funding half the salaries of the School Resource Officers, the district shows its support and appreciation.
During the earlier board discussion, Board Chair Karen Disney-Brombach told the board that the School District has a higher standard of behavior than other districts. She added that the School Resource Officers are an important part of students maintaining those standards.