Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Districts struggle with less funding for safety officers

As school funding continues to dwindle, officials at three local districts have been forced to make tough decisions about a valuable resource that helps keep students safe.

Officials at Genoa, Oregon, and Bedford school districts recently have grappled with how to keep funding school resource and liaison officers - police officers assigned to districts to promote safety, handle security issues, and implement the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E.

Because of funding shortfalls, Genoa Area Local Schools will lose the officer assigned to it, Oregon City Schools will have one fewer officer patrolling its hallways, and one of two officers may be removed from Bedford Public Schools.

The 2007-08 school year is the first in four years that an officer won't be a constant presence in Genoa schools in Ottawa County, Superintendent Dennis Mock said.

Clay Township police Officer Bill Schutz had been a familiar face in the district's high school and middle school since 2004. "It was just a face that our students could connect with," Mr. Mock said.

But Officer Schutz was noticeably absent from school when classes resumed last week. The officer was reassigned to road patrol when the grant funding his salary and benefits expired in January. Another grant could not be secured, Clay Township Police Chief Roger Schultze said.

Though the district spent more than $17,000 to keep the officer for the second half of the 2006-07 school year, there was no extra money to pay for the position for the new year, Mr. Mock said.

"We don't have the money to facilitate the program," he said. "As with most grants, when the money dries up, a lot of organizations can't fund them on their own."

This means there will not be anyone to teach the D.A.R.E. program.

"We're still looking at other alternatives for funding," Chief Schultze said. "The big loss for us is the contact between juveniles and police, which was a major thing and a good thing for us."

In Lucas County, one patrolman will help teach the D.A.R.E. curriculum at the middle-school level in Oregon schools now that just one officer will be dividing time between the district's two middle schools.

Oregon schools will have one fewer school resource officer because the city is funding the program, Oregon Administrator Ken Filipiak said.

In 2003, the city agreed to pay two-thirds of the program's costs with the district picking up the remaining third to put one officer at the district's high school and one at each of its two middle schools, Mr. Filipiak said.

But district officials recently asked to be relieved of their contribution toward the program because of financial constraints, and city officials agreed to the request.

"We're working with them and recognizing that it's hard to come up with extra money," Mr. Filipiak said.

This means that one officer will remain assigned to Clay High School and another will divide his time between the district's two middle schools - Fassett and Eisenhower.

In Bedford Township, Monroe County sheriff's deputies Randy Krupp and Randy Sehl have been lobbying to keep their posts as liaison officers at Bedford Public Schools.

But it is likely the district may decide technology could provide adequate security services at a lower cost, thereby eliminating the need for a human presence.

The board recently agreed to seek a grant to pay for security cameras at the high school and bus garage. In addition to daily security issues like thwarting vandalism, board members voting for the cameras said the technology was needed because the district likely would not have liaison officers in the future.

District administrators have indicated that by school year's end they will probably cut one liaison officer position because of a lack of funds.

Deputy Sehl's salary is paid by a state fund that expires in March, 2008.

Although board members agreed that they would retain Deputy Sehl if state funds increase, Bedford, like most districts in Monroe County, predicted in its 2007-08 budget that state funding was unlikely to increase.

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