DELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A 10-day applicant search was cut in half after "surprising" levels of interest for the new position flooded the Volusia County School District. That position: armed school guardian.
On Wednesday, the Volusia Sheriff’s Office announced on social media that the position had been closed due to a big response. District leaders say they got 180 applications to fill the 44 guardian positions in only five days of the job being posted.
"We thought there'd be folks that were interested; 180 was a little bit of a surprise,” said district spokesperson Nancy Wait.
Wait said of the 180 applications, about 50 have already been thrown out due to not meeting the qualifications and, of the remaining candidates that they’re still working through, 14 have already been selected to move on to the next phase of the hiring process.
The school guardian positions were created in conjunction with the county sheriff’s officer as an answer to a new state mandate that every school have an armed guard by the new school year. Wait said most of the district’s secondary schools are already covered by resource officers but the elementary schools needed to be covered.
So the guardian program will essentially create deputy-like positions that don’t have the power to arrest. The district and sheriff’s office want candidates with military or law enforcement backgrounds who will be required to pass a lot of training (132 hours before the school year starts) as well as mental health evaluations and thorough background checks.
Wait said that Sheriff Mike Chitwood is assisting heavily in the hiring process and will actually require more out of those candidates than even the state has asked for. This is unfamiliar territory for districts around the state though.
"We have never seen guns in the budget. That is historical for a school district to see,” said Wait.
In fact, just budgeting for the program has been a challenge, she said. This week Volusia County leaders pledged to help fund the new protection measures as the district and law enforcement try to cover all the costs.
Wait said the program has to be ready to go and in place by the beginning of the school year.