During its April 12 regular the El Dorado Springs R-II Board took up the issue of school protection.
Supt. Mark Koca said, “There are three basic ways you could go right now: two would train a school protection officer and the third would be to hire a school resource officer. Shield Solutions is the one I think everybody is probably the most familiar with. Basically, it’s law enforcement training, weapons training. A person has to qualify annually. They charge a pretty good price for that ($18,500 per person per year). For that price, you get the training, the lodging, the ammunition and insurance.”
“Basically, if a school shooting occurs, these people automatically become employees of School Solutions and their insurance then covers them so the district is at no fault on that. It’s a lot of training. A lot of schools pay a stipend for these people to carry on campus ($3,500 to $4,000 per person per year). It’s a two-year contract so you are looking at $18,500 a person. We probably should have three at least on campus.”
“We haven’t seen the MSBA training version yet.”
“For about the same price, you could hire a school resource officer (SRO) (estimated $25,000 per year contracted service) and have them on campus on a daily basis. That would be kind of a partnership with the city. You would probably need to have that person deputized by the city.”
“That’s kind of what’s out there. There are few schools around that do it. Not many yet but probably a growing number.”
Board Member Greg Beydler asked if there was any Title money available for this. Koca said there is not.
Koca said, “As far as local money, we could rob accounts and probably scrape up enough money to do it if that was the board’s decision, but that would take away from other programs. The timing is not great, let’s just put it that way.”
A board member asked for the superintendent’s recommendation. He said, “I’ll be up front with you. I’m not a big fan of this idea (of arming teachers). I’ve kind of struggled with this idea that a teacher is going to be one those people who we expect to work with kids, is going to draw down on a kid. That SRO in Florida was trained and he was not a teacher.”
The board discussed emergency locks on classroom doors. They work well making the class virtually impenetrable when dropped into place. Supt. Koca said that the “keys” would have to be uniformly placed throughout the campus and would be subject to being stolen or being used by a school invader to create a hostage situation.
“We’re doing a pretty good job of keeping our buildings locked during the day but anybody could open a door and let somebody in. A kid could stick a rock in a door so it won’t quite close. We have that happen a lot so somebody won’t have to walk around the building.”
“So all of these things add up to right where we’ve been – a big question mark. It doesn’t really matter what everybody else is doing. What is the best thing for our district?”
Beydler said, “I just want to be sure we are doing everything as feasible as possible to provide for the safety of the kids and not just hope nothing will happen. I think we need to be proactive on this. Schools are a very soft target. I would like for us to develop a committee and have someone come in and point out our soft areas so we can have an idea of all the vulnerable parts we have. I know we won’t be able to cover all of them but at least it will give us an idea of what we are looking at and hopefully we can rectify some of them.”
Board President Darrell Eason said he was leaning more toward a school resource officer who would be a trained city police officer.
He said, “I don’t think we should be arming teachers. And I’m not opposed to guns. I’ve had guns all my life.” He said, “It’s a shame with all the nonsense the government does, it couldn’t come up with money to help schools with security.”
Koca said, “The ones I have that would volunteer for this service, would be exactly the ones that I would never want to have a gun at school.”
The board asked Supt. Koca to do more research on cooperating with the city on a School Resource Officer. A few years ago, the school got a grant which paid for one school resource officer. That officer was popular with the kids but when the grant ran out, the city police department reassigned him to another job within the department.