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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

City of Ocala, Marion County School Board seeking agreement to assign OPD officers to local schools

The City of Ocala is seeking approval of a three-year agreement with the Marion County School Board to assign police officers to local elementary, middle, high, and technical schools.

The agreement will be presented to the Ocala City Council during its upcoming regular meeting on Tuesday, July 19.

The School Resource Officer Program currently assigns a school resource officer who works closely with the school principal and staff to develop plans and strategies to prevent dangerous situations at local schools. The resource officers make referrals to community agencies for students and staff, and they also provide educational counseling and law enforcement as needed.

The Marion County School Board and the City of Ocala have drafted an agreement, pursuant to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, that would assign police officers to 16 schools to enhance the safety and security of students and staff.

Through the agreement, the Ocala Police Department would assign one regularly employed police officer to each of the following schools: Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary School, College Park Elementary School, Eighth Street Elementary School, Madison Street Academy School, Oakcrest Elementary School, South Ocala Elementary School, Ward-Highlands Elementary School, Wyomina Park Elementary School, Fort King Middle School, Hillcrest School, Howard Middle School, Marion Technical College, Marion Technical Institute, and Osceola Middle School.

In addition, the Ocala Police Department would assign two regularly employed police officers to Vanguard High School and West Port High School.

According to city staff, the Marion County School Board would fund the School Resource Officer Program by paying the City of Ocala at a rate of $133,166.16 per month for a period of 12 months, beginning on July 1, 2022. After the first year, the school board would pay the city at a rate of $126,549.75 per month for a period of 24 months, beginning on July 1, 2023.

City staff feels that the program has been beneficial to the city, the school board, and public school students, and staff is recommending approval of the three-year agreement. The decision on whether to approve or deny the agreement will be made by the city council members during their meeting on July 19.

If the agreement is approved, the Marion County School Board will fund the School Resource Officers Program in the amount of $4,635,187.92 over three years.

The Ocala City Council meets at 4 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of every month at Ocala City Hall (110 SE Watula Avenue).