Rockwood approves funds to improve school safety
By: Carol Enright
On Feb. 7, the Rockwood Board of Education approved transferring $258,000 from existing fund balances to pay for five new safety initiatives through the end of this school year.
The new safety measures include hiring an additional hall monitor at each of the district’s four high schools and six middle schools at a cost of $94,000. Currently, all Rockwood elementary schools are locked with door security systems that require visitors to be “buzzed in” during school hours. Doors to the high schools and middle schools are also locked, except for one main entrance that remains open to students and visitors.
Dennis Griffith, Rockwood’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, said the additional hall monitors would allow a dedicated person to monitor the main entrance at each secondary school.
The enhanced safety measures also include hiring staff to buzz visitors in and out of elementary schools from 6:30-8 a.m. and from 4-6 p.m. These are the hours before and after school staff is available to buzz in visitors, but when students may still be in the buildings for before and after school care. The new staff will cost $60,000 through the end of the current school year.
With the goal of increasing police presence at the district’s elementary schools, the approved measures also include $20,000 for leasing four police cars that could be shared by local police officers as they patrol schools and $80,000 to pay for security station desks. The desks would be placed in the line of sight of main school entrances and used as a place for police to complete their work and use their laptops while at the schools. As an incentive for officers to spend more time at schools, $4,000 was allocated to providing lunch to police officers patrolling Rockwood schools.
In addition to the $258,000 transfer to fund these five measures through the 2012-2013 school year, the Board also authorized allocating $271,000 in the 2013-2014 budget to hire 19 hall monitors. The additional amount would fund three hall monitors at each high school and one at each middle school, except for Crestview Middle School, which would be assigned two due to its larger size.
These latest safety efforts are in addition to $5 million in security measures proposed as part of the no-tax rate increase $38.4 million bond issue, Prop S, that Rockwood is placing on the April 2 ballot.
At the start of the Board meeting, Rockwood parent, Nancy Robinson, asked the Board to consider hiring an armed police officer to be on site at each of the district’s 19 elementary schools and one early childhood center.
“I feel like that’s money well spent,” said Robinson. “I think most of the people in the school district would welcome that if that is truly the best way to help the kids be safe from an intruder.”
Griffith acknowledged that “everybody agrees that an armed police officer is much more valuable than somebody that’s just standing there watching.” But he said that local police chiefs have said that providing that many officers to one school district would be difficult and expensive, costing the district an estimated $1 million annually.
Griffith added that the issue of police officers in schools would continue to be part of an ongoing conversation about safety in the district.
Superintendent Bruce Borchers agreed.
“This is not the end of the conversation,” said Borchers. “This is the beginning. These are things that we can do right now, but we can guarantee we’ll be back talking to you about this again as we look at plans for next year.”