Federal grant would add deputies to Pasco elementaries
LAND O’ LAKES - The Pasco County School Board is teaming with Sheriff Chris Nocco to apply for a federal grant that could provide an additional 14 school resource officers to the school district. Seven of those officers would be assigned to elementary schools, with each officer having duties at multiple schools within a geographic area. Right now, all middle and high schools in Pasco have resource officers, but no elementary schools do. “In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, this is an opportunity we felt we had to go after,” Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd told the school board, which approved the grant application Tuesday.Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut was the scene of the December shooting that left 20 children and six school employees dead. The application process for a three-year Community Oriented Policing Services grant is competitive so snaring the money is no guarantee. The Hillsborough County School Board also voted this week to apply for one of the COPS grants, which are awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice. The grants pay 75 percent of the officers’ salaries and benefits over the three years, so the Pasco school district would incur some costs if the application, due May 22, is successful. The first year of the grant would cost the district nothing, but the district would pay $248,138 the second year. That amount would grow to $267,869 in the third year. The grant ends at that point, but the district would be obligated to keep the officers at least one more year at a projected cost to the district of $692,869. The sheriff’s office also would have expenses throughout the life of the grant, including sharing some of the salary costs. In addition to the seven elementary school officers, the plan calls for school resource detectives who would investigate crimes at schools and help monitor students with Department of Juvenile Justice probation and diversion sanctions, among other duties. Also, Wiregrass Ranch High, which already has one resource officer, would get a second officer to help deal with the school’s large enrollment, which is more than 2,000 students. The remaining officers covered by the grant would be one K-9 handler and one emergency management specialist. The county commission also must approve the grant application and is expected to consider it May 21.