Broward County is almost done training its first group of armed school safety officers, called Guardians, in time for the first day of school on Aug. 15.
The trainees took a firearms course Monday at Markham Park and Target Range in Sunrise.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, passed earlier this year, requires all Florida schools to have an armed school resource officer. But because there aren't enough law enforcement officers available in Broward to fill those jobs, the Broward County School Board created the Guardian program in June to fill the gaps.
Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district estimates it will need at least 55 Guardians, all posted at elementary schools; 57 applicants have qualified so far. Guardians must have prior law enforcement or military experience.
"We've got a very rigorous screening process, where they've got to pass background checks, there's psychological testing," Runcie said. "If you make it through all of that, then you're required to go through 132 hours of the training."
The Guardians, who are doing all of their training through the Broward Sheriff's Office, will also be required to complete 12 additional hours of diversity training. The first class is made up of 16 Guardians.
The district is keeping applications open in hopes of hiring additional Guardians over the course of the 2018-19 school year .
Broward County Public Schools partnered with BSO to launch the program. Sheriff Scott Israel said the training is a "refresher" for participants.
"I can assure you that nobody's going to perform perfectly, but the fact that we're having Guardians in the schools makes us safer from day one," Israel said.
And it's not just public schools that will get Guardians, he said.
"I've made a decision that our charter schools will be treated exactly the same as we treat our public schools," Israel said.
A second class of 30 Guardians will begin training on Aug. 13 and be ready to be posted to schools by Sept. 6.