- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - One of Georgia’s largest school systems plans to end its school security contract with the Atlanta Police Department.

Atlanta Public Schools is moving ahead with the plan despite warnings from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed that the move could have “catastrophic consequences” for children.

The school system is taking steps to form its own police force and replace the city police officers currently patrolling schools with officers directly accountable to the district.

In a letter sent Feb. 22, Atlanta Public Schools operations chief Larry Hoskins notified the city that Atlanta schools would terminate the contract effective June 30.

The school system’s decision to end its contract with the city police department was “beyond” him, Reed said recently.

“Everyone knows APS is independent. They’re expressing their independence. But I think they’re going to make the children of the Atlanta school system far less safe,” Reed said.

District officials suggested earlier this year the in-house department could cost more than the district’s annual $5.6 million contract with the city, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But district spokeswoman Jill Strickland said last week that the new department would not actually cost more, and it was unclear why the cost estimates changed, the newspaper reported.

Atlanta police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said in a statement to the Journal-Constitution that the department will work with the school system to make sure the change is a smooth one.

“The Atlanta Police Department’s priority is to protect city residents and visitors, which includes students in the Atlanta Public Schools,” Espy said. “We will work with APS to ensure a smooth transition so that student safety continues to be our focus, regardless of our physical presence in the schools.”

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