What Franklin schools are doing about security, including a possible armed addition

School safety and security measures were reviewed by the Franklin Board of Education at its meeting Monday.

Business Manager Rodney Roberts and Superintendent Michael Sander gave an overview of the security measures that have been implemented over the past several years to protect students and staff at the district’s buildings.

“This is something we always talk about,” Roberts said. “We’re not reactive. It’s something that’s always on our mind. Anything and everything is up for discussion with school safety.”

Those security measures range from surveillance cameras and special software to monitor staff, students and visitors to building security vestibules for visitors to enter the buildings. In addition, officials said the district continues to build a working relationship with Franklin police, even though there has not been a school resource officer in the district in about a decade after budget cuts forced the termination of that program.

“We have a lot,” Sander said. “We’re doing a lot and we have a lot of things in place. We’ve done a great job in retrofitting the buildings.”

The board also heard a proposal Monday that would create a partnership with Franklin police and the Warren County Educational Resource Center to cover the costs of a school resource officer, who would be assigned to the WCESC’s two learning centers as well as Franklin High School and the junior high.

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Sander said the school resource officer question has been reviewed three times before and was determined to be cost prohibitive for the district to undertake.

In the current proposal, the costs would be split three ways with the Franklin district and WCESC each covering 37.5 percent of the costs and the city of Franklin covering 25 percent of the one-time start-up costs that would cover salary, benefits, equipment, uniforms and a cruiser. The officer would work in the schools during the nine-month school year and work on the streets during the summer break. The WCESC has already approved the plan, according to Police Chief Russell Whitman.

However, some board members had concerns about the start-up and continuing costs of an SRO. Board member Bob Knipper asked if administrators considered using an armed security guard for the buildings which might come at a lesser cost and also added that some school districts have put a very small tax levy on the ballot to cover safety and security costs.

Sander said he would look at Knipper’s suggestion and also reminded the board they have the authority to designate employees to carry concealed weapons as an option.

“We’re looking at everything,” Knipper said. “We’ve already done a lot to be proactive.”

Sander said SROs develop good relationships and trust with the students.

“To me, that was the biggest plus for having school resource officers,” he said. “Having an SRO won’t prevent an incident, but we can’t guarantee anything 100 percent. Safety is a top priority for the district.”

After the meeting, one parent was satisfied with the district’s efforts.

“My concern for the board meeting today was keeping our children safe in today’s environment,” said Dustin Smith.

He said that everything he heard at Monday’s meeting was what he wanted to hear as a father of two Franklin students.

“They’re not just sitting on their hands saying, ‘Well that’s not going to happen in our little town,’ they’re going to try and take proactive measures to try and prevent this as much as they can,” Smith said.

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