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Orange County leaders discuss school security at meeting

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - School security was the focus of Orange County leaders when they met Friday morning.

The county's council of mayors discussed ways to protect elementary school students in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings.

On Monday, some students returned from their winter break to extra security at their schools in unincorporated Orange County.

The goal of Friday’s meeting was to come up with a long-term and affordable game plan to make sure children and parents feel like they are as protected as students in unincorporated Orange County.

One mother told WFTV the extra deputies give her a sense of security.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Sheriff Jerry Demings worked together to staff around 60 additional deputies at most of the 78 elementary schools in the unincorporated part of the county.

It's a change from previous semesters, when deputies only visited elementary schools one day per week.

“It has been a daunting task for us at the Orange County Sheriff's Office in the last few days to do the planning and preparation for the beginning of school today," Demings said.

The move will cost Orange County taxpayers between $2 million and $3 million.

However, students who live in Orange County but attend school within city limits are not as lucky.

Orange County commissioners could only approve extra protection for the parts of the county in which there is no city tax base.

That leaves local mayors to come up with their own plan.

At Friday's meeting, the mayors heard a report from the Orange County Council of Police Chiefs and got recommendations from law enforcement.

Leaders agreed they want sworn officers as opposed to security guards, because officers have more training and can easily call for back up if needed.

One suggestion to pay for the officers was that the school district should start its own police force and hire officers to police the schools.

"Cities don't have the funds, the county doesn't either, and OCPS is responsible for security in the schools. They need to step up to the table," Maitland Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said.

School board chairman Bill Sublette said the district is already looking at ways to improve safety, and they’re willing to work with the mayors.

But Sublette said the decision will ultimately be up to the district, and he doesn't like the idea of having officers at every school.

“We are not going to have a permanent armed guard or police officer presence in our elementary schools in Orange County, Fla., period,” he said.

Sublette said it's expensive and he wonders what a highly trained officer would do at an elementary school all day, every day.