Proposal to place deputies in all Orange Co. elementary schools approved

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newton, Conn., Orange County commissioners voted Tuesday in favor of Mayor Teresa Jacobs' proposal to put a deputy at each of the county's 78 elementary schools.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said if that's what the county wants him to do, then he's going to do his best to do it, but he said he can't afford to pay for the extra deputies at all of the county's elementary schools.

Commissioners said they don't want Demings to sacrifice anything else he's doing in the county to accomplish the tall order, but they, too, are strapped for cash.

School board chairman Bill Sublette said the 184,000 Orange County students and their parents need the extra security after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and Jacobs agrees.

The commission voted unanimously to give the sheriff's office as much as $3 million to post deputies at every school in unincorporated Orange County from Jan. 7, when students come back after the holiday break, until the end of the school year.

There had been some consideration, because of the cost, of doing it only until spring break, but there was concern that parents would grow to count on the extra security.

Demings said all the deputies will be working on a time and a half pay rate, because it will be in addition to their regular shifts.

Demings also said he's not at the point right now where he's going to order deputies to do it. He said he and his staff will start working on the order right away to find the right officers who are willing to step forward and coordinate schedules.

Parents at Chickasaw Elementary School had no idea the school and other elementary schools in Orange County currently only have one school resource officer one day a week.

"One officer at that [Connecticut] school would have made all the difference, all of the difference. And that's what impressed me. It may not be the right long-term solution, it may not be an affordable long-term solution, but there's no question in my mind that situation would have been fundamentally different if there had been one deputy," said Jacobs.

Parents said the peace of mind is worth the price.

"I've always liked this school. I'm surprised at how secure it is, but to have a resource officer would be great, to have it five days a week," said father David Pamblanco.