High schools lose officers

Because of budget cuts, fewer of them will patrol Clearwater's two high schools.

Published July 27, 2007

Police officers will still walk the halls of Clearwater's two middle and high schools this coming school year, but there will be fewer in the high schools.

The Clearwater City Council agreed Wednesday to once again pay a share of the cost of four police officers, or $112,000, next year. The Pinellas County School Board will pick up the rest of the cost for the officers.

But in a policy change, the number of officers stationed at Clearwater and Countryside high schools will be reduced from four to two.

And for the first time, two Clearwater police officers - not sheriff's deputies - will be in the city's two public middle schools.

The change is a result of recent negotiations between Pinellas County schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox and several local governments that threatened to withdraw their support for school resource officers in the face of budget constraints.

As a result, Wilcox shaved the programs' costs by lessening the board's contract for sheriff's deputies and opted for the use of more hall monitors in area schools, Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said.

Those monitors would not carry guns or have arresting powers.

"It would be like giving me a walkie-talkie and walking the halls," council member Paul Gibson said.

Another public hearing on the budget will be held on Aug. 13.