Hamilton students start new school year as parents continue debate on arming staffers

The first of Butler County’s 10 public school systems opened classes Wednesday as 10,000 students flooded into Hamilton schools.

Excited students entered the district’s 13 schools and greeting them alongside teachers and staffers were Hamilton police officers as part of the school district’s upgraded security.

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School safety has been a hotly debated topic in the city school district — and elsewhere in Butler County districts — and Hamilton Schools officials have said they are exploring the idea of arming some staffers to increase security.

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During the summer break the schools have moved rapidly to improve security, adding more armed school resource officers and conducting extensive active shooter drills in coordination with the city’s police department.

MORE: Hamilton Schools add more armed police officers

Hamilton Schools parent Amanda Meyer said, “I like the idea” of the district arming some staffers as long as the volunteer teachers and staffers, who under the plan would be vetted, trained and approved individually by the Hamilton Board of Education, are picked carefully and supervised.

Enhanced security was the dominating topic during summer break for Hamilton City Schools, but Wednesday saw the enthusiasm of starting a new school year take over as classes began in the 10,000-student district. Hamilton City Schools, which is studying a plan to arm some staffers, has already increased its number of armed school resource officers as part of an agreement with the Hamilton Police Department. (MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF)

MORE: Hamilton High restricts student book bags as part of improved safety plan

“It’s a new world these days and I don’t like to worry about my kid. I think it would be safer for the students if the teachers were armed,” said Meyer as she dropped off her teen at Wilson Middle School.

“In case of an emergency, at least they are armed because it (school shootings) happens quick,” she said.

But fellow Wilson Middle School parent Draco Crawl said he has doubts about the strategy.

MORE: Hamilton school residents divided on idea of arming staffers

“It’s a double-edge sword. I’m split on it and I understand both sides of the argument. I would like see an alternative solution to this threat. I’d like to see something other than more guns in the schools,” said Crawl.

The opening morning of the school year went smoothly with no reported problems, said Hamilton Assistant Superintendent Michael Holbrook, who traveled around to the district’s various buildings to watch staffers welcome students.

Holbrook is already under contract with the school board to replace current Hamilton City Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp at the end of this school year.

MORE: Hamilton’s new school leader is a familiar face

The school district was rocked last school year with the unexpected resignation of former Superintendent Tony Orr after he was suspended by the school board in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and other alleged violations of district policies. Orr agreed to a separation agreement with the board that paid him nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Despite all the talk of improving school building security during the summer, the traditional excitement of the first day of classes dominated the mood across the district, said Holbrook.

“The first day has gone tremendous thus far. The first day of school is really exciting. It’s a renaissance and a rebirth,” he said.

“And it brings energy and enthusiasm. We are looking forward to an outstanding 2018-2019 school year,” said Holbrook.

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