Students at Franklin High and Junior High schools will be seeing a school resource officer starting next fall.
Following a lengthy discussion Monday during its monthly work session, Franklin’s school board adopted a resolution, contingent on review of the board’s attorney, to enter a partnership with the Warren County Educational Services Center to contract with the City of Franklin for a school resource officer.
However, the board also reserved the right to expand that to a full-time position that would service all of Franklin’s school buildings inside the city limits. Hunter Elementary School is in Franklin Twp., which is patrolled by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Superintendent Michael Sander said WCESC has said it was going to hire an SRO for its learning centers with or without the participation of Franklin schools.
The decision came as school security has continued to be a dominant topic nationwide in the wake of shootings at a Parkland, Fla. high school last month. Franklin’s decision is the latest in the area to address security concerns or communicate security upgrades to the community.
“School safety is our number one priority” Sander said.
Under the proposal, Franklin schools and the WCESC would each pay 37.5 percent of the costs for an SRO to be assigned to both city schools and the WCESC’s two learning centers, with the city covering the other 25 percent. After the nine-month school year, the SRO would patrol city streets during the summer months. All three entities would cover the one-time costs for uniforms and a cruiser.
Sander said that for the first year, it would cost each of the districts between $47,662 and $55,794. Sander said costs go down in the second year to between $35,994 and $44,126 for the officer’s salary and benefits. If the district were to exercise its option for an SRO of its own, it would be responsible for 75 percent of the costs as well as the other start-up costs.
At the board’s Feb. 26 meeting, some school board members asked for additional information and options for hiring private armed guards for school security. Except for Dayton Public Schools, Sander said school districts in southwest Ohio that have SROs use local police or sheriff’s personnel and that the hourly rate for a police officer is close to what an armed guard would cost.
Sander also pointed out that a police SRO also has a radio to call for assistance from other officers and that they have arrest powers, which a private armed guard would not. He said the central office and the principals would have the SRO’s cell phone number for immediate response without having to use the dispatch center.
During the board’s discussion, some members were not sure if the shared SRO was enough as that officer would be stretched to some degree and wondered if the district should have its own.
“I believe it would be better to have an SRO of our own,” said Board member Lori Raleigh. “We have to decide if we want this or not.”
Board member Rachel Ruppert-Wolfinbarger said the district would have to identify where the funds would come from the budget. “I want to make sure we’re not missing out on an opportunity (with the WCESC),” she said.
Sander said if the district opted to go with a full-time SRO, there would have to be offsets in the budget, but it would not impact staff.
The board will receive additional budget information at its March 26 meeting and will determine if it will stay with the WCESC partnership or hire a full-time SRO.