New security at Southside Schools comes at little cost - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

New security at Southside Schools comes at little cost

(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)

SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) – Recent tragedies, like the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, have made schools everywhere review their safety and security measures.

Two school districts in Independence County have even proposed millage increases to pay for upgrades, but another has found a way to step up security without busting its budget.

The Southside School District recently asked the Independence County Sheriff's Office for some help. The administration hoped to get an extra officer to patrol one of its campuses.

The sheriff's office agreed, but on one condition.

A deputy can provide additional security at the school five days a week, but only when he or she is off-duty.

"We feel like this was the most cost-effective way for us to do it," Southside Superintendent Roger Rich said, "and we did have some additional funding here."

Rich agreed to pay the off-duty officer $100 per day for his help and decided to station him at the more isolated Southside Elementary School campus.

"We have an awesome resource officer here who does a great job on our campus, but he can't be everywhere," Rich said. "That [off-duty officer] is an added presence, and it has been a phenomenal experience up to this point."

The Independence County Sheriff's Office plans to keep up this arrangement at least until the school year ends.

"There's nothing more important than protecting our children," Sheriff Steve Jeffery said. "We've up a sign-up sheet in the office, and so far we haven't had any trouble for our off-duty officers working out here Monday through Friday."

Sheriff Jeffery and his officers, however, may soon be stretched thin.

Both the Batesville and Cedar Ridge School Districts will ask voters on April 9 to approve a property tax hike to pay for additional security projects, like hiring more resource officers. The problem is that the sheriff does not have any extra men to share with all the schools.

"I hope that these other school districts are able to find the funds to hire resource officers at their school," Jeffery said. "I'd like to see one on every campus in Independence County."

For now Southside is looking into its budget to make other upgrades, like possibly installing new electronic locks and cameras.

The superintendent is also searching for grants that would allow the district to potentially hire another full-time resource officer. Until then, the agreement in place now is working well.

"This is something that we can continue on if we can continue to work this partnership," Rich said. "We said we would like to do it until the end of the school year. It may be something if we can to continue on even farther than that.

"I think the number one, most positive thing we can do to protect our kids is to have individual on our campus."

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