The approved plan — the cheapest option — will cost the School District at least $3.2 million.
With less than two weeks before training is set to begin for the first class of school guardians in Volusia County, the School Board has settled on a game plan to hire 44 people plus one supervisor for the program — the cheapest option at approximately $3.2 million that will enable them to comply with Senate Bill 7026, though the Board hopes to secure more funding in the coming weeks to help implement more law enforcement officers in schools.
At its meeting on Tuesday, June 12, the School Board was presented with three options for the School Marshal Program. The first, which passed 4-1 with District 2 School Board Member Ida Wright opposing, included 32 school safety officers and 38 school guardians. The second option was the most expensive, totaling about $3.5 million, and increased the number of school guardians to 43, while the third option would cost about $3.4 million and would simultaneously lower the number of school safety officers to 26 and raise the number of school guardians to 49.
All options included 6 substitute school guardians and each total cost was dependent on the county absorbing the $585,221 in indirect costs from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.
"The county has to have some piece in helping us with an unfunded mandate," said John Hill, School Board member representing District 1.
The School Board discussed its previous request that the county contribute $2 million toward the implementation of the School Marshal Program, which didn't lead anywhere last time the County Council mentioned it. Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell said he was in communication with County Manager Jim Dinneen on the matter, who told Russell the county's chief financial officer was calculating how much the county can contribute.
While some members of the board were hoping to go with an option that would allow for more school safety officers, rather than guardians, at each school, a decision needed to be made at Tuesday's meeting since the School District is behind on the hiring process. Board members agreed they would come back to discuss changes to the plan if it was confirmed they could count with more money, whether from municipalities — city councils and commissions will soon receive letters asking for help with funds — or from the state.
School Board Chair Linda Cuthbert said the District is a partner with all the municipalities and that it "would be nice" if they and the County helped out with this funding since the schools often help the citizens in times of need, such as during storms.
“We need to work together as a team," Cuthbert said. "It is Team Volusia.”