WEST ALEXANDRIA —Twin Valley Community Local Schools held a special Board of Education meeting on Monday, May 7, regarding school safety and what options to pursue.
A School Resource Officer (SRO) and the Smart Boot Lockout System were discussed. Members of the public were able to voice their concerns and desires for the district.
The board has previously discussed an SRO; the question remaining is how to pay for the expense. The district has been looking to apply for grant monies, in case board members come to an agreement to pursue this option. The grant’s intent is to help cover the costs of an SRO and was due by April 27.
Since the safety meeting on April 23, the board has been asked further questions regarding price and ways to reduce the cost to the district. Other questions included: will hiring an SRO reduce the focus on other areas of the school’s budget, should the SRO be employed with West Alexandria Police or the Preble County Sheriff’s Department, and what would the responsibilities of the SRO be?
One major discussion board member Christine Bitner brought to the table was whether TVS could work with another district to share an officer.
“That is a decision you are going to have to make as a board. Are there opportunities for that? As I know right now, there is one other district that is having this conversation with Sheriff Simpson, and that is National Trail,” Superintendent Bob Fischer said.
“Preble Shawnee is in a difficult situation, where they are located with the Camden Police Department, but there is also West Elkton and Gratis. Where they are located, there is no nearby department. Tri-County North is located in Lewisburg and they have had an agreement with Chief Rick McGee for years,” Fischer explained.
Bitner asked if there will be an office for Chief Gasper and Fischer answered there will be.
He added, this decision is up to the board, whether they want to consider a half-time or full-time officer. This will also have to be discussed with the Sheriff. A deciding factor will also be the board’s intention of this safety piece. Will they want someone to be at the school at all times? Just at peak times?
Fischer stressed, this is the Board of Education’s decision.
“The best case scenario would be having someone here full-time, but I want to make sure we have the money for it and we’re not taking away from anything else,” Bitner said. “Certainly, if we have a part-time person, I would hope they wouldn’t have set hours so there wasn’t a pattern.”
Another board member pointed out, the police car parked out front would be a hint their part-time officer was working.
Both West Alexandria Chief Tony Gasper and Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson attended the meeting to answer any questions on their side. Simpson was asked to answer whether two districts could share an SRO.
“I’m not sure it is possible,” he said. “The biggest challenge you’re going to face is, who gets what service what day? On those patrol days, who gets patrol on what day? What hours? [There might be conflicts] and how do you choose?”
“If there is a pool of more than one officer, that might work two schools — I’m just looking at other options. When we make the decision, we should have exhausted all options so there is no question,” Bitner said.
According to Simpson, they should hear soon if they were awarded the grant.
Regarding the Smart Boot Lockout System, Board President Jim Pemberton has had calls regarding the price. He had a concern as to the type of company and whether it is viable. Another concern, the pricing started at one price, then increased to another, and finally jumped to almost $10,000 over the initial price. His other concern was the request for 75 percent of the cost, before the company even installs the product.
He was interested in knowing if there is a comparable company. Other companies include: Nightlock, Barricade, and one from a company called Shifler.
Bitner asked if other companies would have the software component. One company has something comparable, but does not have all aspects of the potential capabilities. She asked asked, are there other options to alert to police of an incident in conjunction with another product other than Smart Boot?
According to Simpson, the Smart Boot is a pretty good system and he has been impressed with the capabilities of the system. The board agreed to move forward with the Smart Boot system.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH