The Gainesville City Commission voted on Thursday to approve an agreement between the School Board of Alachua County and the Gainesville Police Department.
The agreement mandates 20 school resource officers to staff the schools in Gainesville city limits. Most schools will only have one officer, though Gainesville High School and A. Quinn Jones Center will have two. The number of officers depends on the school’s population. If the population is over 1,000, a second officer is needed.
Prior to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act, Gainesville Police Department leaders would negotiate with the school board to determine whether certain schools need more than one police officer.Thursday’s approved agreement is compensation for the police officers that the GPD is sending to these schools.
“We would love to have full funding for the full cost of the officers, but we understand there are limitations to what the school board can offer us,” Active Chief Inspector Jorge Campos said. “This is also a partnership between the city of Gainesville and the school board, ensuring that our schools are safe and that we are providing the proper services.”
Under the prior contract, the school board paid approximately $984,049 to the city, but under the 2019 contract, the school board will be paying $1,200,000 per year to the city. The payments will start on Aug. 31 and will pay for the 20 school resource officers.
“We as a society choose to put mandates on things, very expensive mandates, that keep our children at risk,” Commissioner Harvey Ward said. “I am absolutely disgusted that we are forced into the position where we need to apply expensive mandates.”
Schools receive money from the state under the Safe Schools Act in order to provide security resources to the schools, which the board then divides. The Alachua County School Board decided to divide them equally, so each school has an equal amount to spend on security.
“One of our most treasured assets in our community is our children,” Campos said, “and we want to make sure they have a very safe secure environment to learn and excel.”