The events of Dec. 14, 2012, in Newton, Conn., was a day that propelled both school and government officials from coast to coast to immediately consider and review safety measures in schools. It was on that day when 20 elementary school students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School lost their lives at the hands of a gunman.
In Warsaw Monday night, city officials presented their own plan to be proactive in efforts to make local schools safer.
Warsaw Police Chief Scott Whitaker presented to the Warsaw Common Council an interlocal agreement with Warsaw Community Schools to increase the number of School Resource Officers. According to the terms of the agreement, the city of Warsaw will pay for two full-time SROs while the school corporation pays the salaries and benefits for an additional two full-time SROs.
Whitaker and Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said meetings with WCS Superintendent Dr. Craig Hintz led to the drafting of the 7-year contract. In total, WCS will pay the city $169,903.50 for the next two years divided into 8 equal payments. The contract will then be reviewed and adjusted annually beginning in 2015.
The schools to be served by the SROs will be all of those in the Warsaw Community Schools system. Whitaker told the council, “Obviously we’re going outside of the Warsaw community … where these officers are assigned will be up to the Warsaw schools.”
WCS includes eight elementary schools, two middle schools and the high school. Whitaker said the concentration will likely be largely focused on the middle and high schools. Warsaw currently provides two D.A.R.E. officers for WCS and one SRO at Warsaw Community High School.
“It’s important to understand that we’re providing what the school has asked for,” added Thallemer. “It’s more than just hiring more officers, there’s a program for safety for the kids.”
The SROs will be selected by the police chief and will also be qualified D.A.R.E. instructors. Those officers will work 8-hour shifts at their assigned schools when school is in session. When school is not in session the officers will be used for patrols and other official police duties for the city.
Councilman Jeff Grose, who is a teacher at Warsaw Community High School, noted the program is “a good thing. It’s good for the children to see officers like this … I think it will be a very positive thing.”
The council did not vote on the matter, but rather just heard the presentation on what the agreement calls for. The contract will have to be approved by the Warsaw school board and the Warsaw Board of Public Works and Safety.
If approved, the contract will go into effect Aug. 1 and the first payment from WCS to the city will be due in November.