published: Friday, February 01, 2013
Elementary schools add police protection
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
A pair of Lake charter schools -- Mascotte Elementary Charter School and Spring Creek Charter school in Paisley -- have become the first elementary schools in the county to bring armed security officers on campus.
The independent boards that operate both schools have decided that, high price or not, the full-time "school resource officers" will be part of their daily staff.
"The way we look at it, it's priceless," Spring Creek Principal Bob Curry said.
Wayne Cockcroft, the principal at Mascotte Elementary Charter, said he and the conversion board at his school are thankful to have been in the financial position to hire a full time officer to provide extra security.
Both schools' boards made the decision to hire officers at separate emergency meetings held earlier this month.
"If schools can possibly afford it, I think it's an added layer of security that's more than worth the cost and fortunately, we're in the position where we could do it at this time," Cockcroft said.
"There's nothing that can be 100 percent foolproof, but in the end, you have that extra layer on top of all other security measures that are being taken in various other ways."
The hirings are in response to the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people -- 20 of whom were children between the ages of 6 and 7.
Lake County Schools spokesman Chris Patton said every middle and high school in the county has a resource deputy assigned to it full time.
The same presence has never been required at elementary schools in the Lake County district because the younger students tend to have fewer serious behavioral issues.
However, immediately following the Sandy Hook shooting, officers -- some from local police departments and some from the Lake County Sheriff's Office -- were stationed at every elementary school in the county to ease parent's fears that something similar could happen anywhere.
That service was provided during the two weeks before and after the winter holiday.
At a recent meeeting that included school officials and county commissioners, School Board members concluded that, for now, the county's elementary schools "are safe and will continue to be safe."
The cost effectiveness of security measures in elementary schools is being studied, Patton said.
"For now, deputies throughout Lake County, (through a cooperative understanding) have stepped up their presence at schools," Patton said.
Nevertheless, Cockcroft and Curry both said they stand by their boards' decisions to hire full-time resource officers.
In Mascotte, the school resource officer will be a Mascotte reserve police officer who will receive $34,000 a year. The school and the city will divide the cost, with school paying the officer's salary from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and the city paying his salary on off hours, weekends, holidays and school vacations.
"We got a call from the school principal at Mascotte Elementary wanting to know if I could assign an officer to his school campus and I responded immediately without even thinking twice about it that yes, I did," Mascotte Police Chief Rolando Banasco said. "We wanted to do whatever we could to make sure the students in our city are dropped off and picked up safely."
Cockcroft said the hiring is the "best we can do at this time to give our parents and students an extra sense of security and peace about safety for the children, teachers and staff during the school day."
At Spring Creek, Curry said the board is paying their resource officer, who is a different Lake County sheriff's deputy the department sends out each day, about $30 per hour for his time there during regular school hours, Monday through Friday.
"We'll continue this way through February when we have another board meeting and then we'll decide whether or not to hire a dedicated resource deputy or continue contracting with the LCSO," Curry said. "It will be my recommendation that we have a dedicated resource officer for the remainder of the year and into next year."
Curry also said Spring Creek is looking at other means of added security as well, including such things as more surveillance, electric gates, etc.
Further discussion within his board will determine what more they can do in the future.
"We want to do everything we can to make our campus safe," Curry said.