Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Many bay area schools increasing police presence Monday

TAMPA — Many Tampa Bay area schools will be upping their police presence today in the wake of Friday's shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The Hillsborough County school district has been coordinating with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Tampa Police Department to increase security — especially in elementary schools, said district spokesman Steve Hegarty.

In addition, school psychologists have been coordinating with each other and will be available to talk with students and teachers if they need to, he said.

The district was sending out automated phone calls Sunday to staff and parents from superintendent MaryEllen Elia about the heightened security.

In a statement, the Pasco Sheriff's Office said it will increase patrols around schools today.

"We cannot disclose our exact plans due to security reasons but citizens should know that the safety of our children is a top priority for the men and women of the Pasco Sheriff's Office," the statement said.

As of Sunday afternoon, Pinellas County schools hadn't planned to add to their regular law enforcement presence, said spokeswoman Melanie Marquez.

School principals were given resources on how to support parents and students, she said. They will decide individually how to address the incident, and school counselors will also be available to help. "They're ready to do that and well aware of the sensitivity of what's happened," Marquez said.

Even without boosting their numbers, local school resource officers will likely arrive at work "heavy-hearted" and alert, said Pinellas sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Dave DiSano.

"I'm sure this is obviously going to be on everybody's mind," he said, adding, "We're going to continue with being vigilant with any suspicious activity or suspicious persons that we see at our schools."

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