The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to make more than 1,000 new hires to bolster security at hundreds of campuses in a move some critics have called "security on the cheap."
More than 400 LAUSD elementary school campuses are slated to receive 1,087 campus aides -- a minimum of two on each campus -- as early as March 1, LAUSD school board president Monica Garcia told the Daily News on Friday.
The $4.2 million plan comes a month after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 first-graders and six adults.
"Another two people on each campus can help us maintain a safe environment that can ease the minds of our employees, parents and students," Garcia said. "This way we can focus on reading and writing, teaching and learning."
But Scott Folsom, a Mount Washington Elementary School Parent Teacher Association member and state PTA board member, said it's "all smoke and mirrors."
"What they're doing is security on the cheap," he said. "I fear that we will end up having a person with a roll of yellow stickers and a sign-up sheet."
The campus aides will be unarmed but equipped with two-way radios and vests "for high visibility," according to a memo dated Jan. 23 from Senior Deputy Superintendent Michelle King.
Required safety training for these aides will be conducted online and will cover child abuse awareness training; employee duties during an emergency; mediating student conflicts; responding to threats on campus; how to conduct metal detector searches; and what to do if there is a school lockdown, according to the memo.
The aides will work three-hour shifts.
"It shows to me, as far as I'm concerned, a lack of commitment to the challenge at hand. I'm very much aware what happened in Connecticut and a person like that can't do anything to prevent what happened there," Folsom said of the campus aides.
"If we are really concerned about security on campus, which I think we should be, we should at least have trained uniformed, full-time people. They don't have to be armed policemen, but they need to be real security guards."
There are already 1,028 campus aides at middle and high schools but the plan is to create the extra campus aide positions for the elementary school campuses without aides.
School officials plan to fill many of those positions with former LAUSD employees who have been laid off.
"We are reaching out to over 1,000 separated employees to possibly reinstate them to fill many of these positions," the memo stated.
It is uncertain how long the program will run.
"Safety is a priority every single day and I'm so glad that the superintendent has figured out this small but significant strategy," Garcia said.
The campus aides will supplement the dozens of LAPD officers who have been patrolling K-8 school campuses district-wide since Jan. 7.
Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith, who recently visited Main Street Elementary School downtown Thursday, said the department plans to continue its patrols for the foreseeable future regardless of the added campus aides.
"We watch kids eating lunch, walk kids to class and talk to them every day," Smith said.
"It's good for our cops to get to know these kids and we think it's great to have the kids feel comfortable with our cops," he said.
"We're really glad that, for the first time in a very long time, that we are able to address a need and not have to shut another program somewhere else down," Garcia said.
While the campus aides won't add teachers cut by the district's budget woes, Garcia said school officials agree that extra security has been a high priority and may be a sign of more positive additions for LAUSD.
"This is the beginning of an increase in staff," she said. "We know we have more to do in terms of restoration (of school programs and staff), but we're optimistic this is the step in the right direction."
Folsom isn't convinced.
"This is just filling in squares in a spreadsheet," he said, "to make it look like there's more security."
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