Heightened security in place at Orange County elementary schools

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County teachers and students returned to the classroom Monday for the first time since winter break, and when they did, they noticed an increase in security.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said she wanted deputies to guard dozens of elementary schools in the county after the deadly school shooting last month in Connecticut.

However, county officials said having the deputies at elementary schools may not be permanent, because of the cost.

The more than 3 million overtime shifts will cost up to $3 million to put deputies at the 78 elementary schools in unincorporated Orange County through the end of the year, officials said.

Having deputies at the schools is a sight most parents told WFTV brings peace of mind.

Until now, deputies were only present for the full day at middle and high schools. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut led to the change in security that some parents said was overdue.

"If they have security at high school, what's the difference with the little kids? High school kids can fight where one of these little kids can't," said one mother.

 Lancaster Elementary School has 845 students, 92 staff members and now one deputy who will join them for the entire school day.

"I just want the kids to be safe coming to school," said parent Iris Arencibia. "Any security measure they can take, I'm totally happy and agree with it."

But at a press conference Monday morning in front of Lancaster Elementary, both Jacobs and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings  admitted the new security measure probably won't be in place for the next school year, and it all came down to money.

"Whenever we assign law enforcement personnel, there is a cost to that," said Demings.

"The only way that we could expand the program is to change the way we pay for the program," Jacobs said.

"Is that feasible?" asked WFTV reporter Nancy Alvarez.

"With today's budget, I don't think so. Today's reality, I don't think so," Jacobs said.

Demings said scheduling and training are also a challenge.

In fact, 17 elementary schools still have deputies rotating through rather than being stationed for the full day, because the Sheriff's Office is still working on scheduling and getting all the deputies in place.