Four days before the new school year begins, Jupiter town council approved an agreement between the police department and the Palm Beach County School District to provide five officers to patrol the town’s non-charter public elementary schools until the district police department hires its own officers.
Palm Beach Gardens, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Riviera Beach, North Palm Beach and Lantana have already signed security agreements with the school district, and others are expected to follow.
Officers had been assigned to Jupiter Elementary, Lighthouse Elementary, Limestone Creek Elementary, Jerry Thomas Elementary and Beacon Cove Intermediate in July for the first half of the 2018-19 school year in anticipation of the new school safety requirements, Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr told The Palm Beach Post. In December, Jupiter officers will have another chance to sign up to cover the second half of the school year.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, signed after 17 students and adults were killed at the Parkland school on Valentine’s Day, requires one or more school resource officers, school safety officers or school guardian be stationed at each school.
The town will be reimbursed by the school district’s police department at $81.48 an hour, with the rate increasing to $85.38 an hour on April 1, according to the agreement.
Kerr said officers were given video training to learn what their expectations are.
Officers are expected to be at the schools a half-hour before school begins through a half-hour after school lets out, according to the agreement. The officer “shall maintain a visual presence at the entrance to the school at arrival and dismissal times and shall move throughout the school during the school day, checking access/egress points and overall security of campus,” the agreement states.
The officer is the first responder to any incident that may harm or threaten students, teachers or parents on campus, but not “non-criminal violations.” Don’t expect the officer to enforce the dress code or resolve loitering issues — the school district notes that the school officer’s job is to address student safety, not “public order offenses” that are better suited for school staff to handle.
The agreement lasts until June 30, 2020, and can be renewed for one-year terms for up to three more years. Kerr said while he’s prepared for his officers to be at schools for that time, he doesn’t think it will be that long.
“I think the (Palm Beach County School District Police Department is) doing a really good job of recruiting,” Kerr said.