More officers are coming to Palm Beach County schools — but the hiring process will take time.
That was the message to Wellington’s council on Tuesday night as village officials pledged support for local schools and safety measures being taken by law enforcement in the wake of the deadly mass shooting on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead.
Since then, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County School District police have ramped up efforts to have more officers on campus, representatives from each agency told the council.
“There’s going to be more officers, and we’re in the process of hiring more officers now as we speak,” said School Police Major Eli Cano.
A surge in police protection at schools is part of a $450 million safety plan rolled out last week by Gov. Rick Scott in response to the tragedy in Parkland. That includes one officer for every 1,000 students per school, in place before the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Currently, there is one officer for each middle and high school in Palm Beach County, and one officer per three to five elementary schools, Cano said, adding that Superintendent Robert Avossa’s goal is to have three officers at each high school, two at each middle school and one at each elementary school.
But Cano said good help has been hard to find, not just at his agency but at law-enforcement agencies throughout Palm Beach County.
Silva said having a presence at every school is a “top priority” for PBSO. “We’re trying to fill that gap,” he said. “Right now we have a mission to be really high-visibility at all the schools.”
Mayor Anne Gerwig noted how close to home the shooting hit for many in Wellington. Her daughter, she noted, lives in a community that backs up to Douglas High.
“So many of us know people who either were students there or were teachers there,” she said.
After offers of support from council members, Cano said the district police “need all the help we can get.” He shared a message he has been giving to teachers and principals: “If you hear anything, I don’t care how minute it is, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call me,” he said.