SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) – Recent tragedies, like the shootingin Newtown, Connecticut, have made schools everywhere review their safety andsecurity measures.
Two school districts in Independence County have evenproposed millage increases to pay for upgrades, but another has found a way tostep up security without busting its budget.
The Southside School District recently asked theIndependence County Sheriff's Office for some help. The administration hoped toget 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 fivedays a week, but only when he or she is off-duty.
"We feel like this was the most cost-effective way for us todo it," Southside Superintendent Roger Rich said, "and we did have someadditional funding here."
Rich agreed to pay the off-duty officer $100 per day for hishelp and decided to station him at the more isolated Southside ElementarySchool campus.
"We have an awesome resource officer here who does a greatjob on our campus, but he can't be everywhere," Rich said. "That [off-dutyofficer] is an added presence, and it has been a phenomenal experience up tothis point."
The Independence County Sheriff's Office plans to keep upthis arrangement at least until the school year ends.
"There's nothing more important than protecting ourchildren," 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 outhere Monday through Friday."
Sheriff Jeffery and his officers, however, may soon bestretched thin.
Both the Batesville and Cedar Ridge School Districts willask voters on April 9 to approve a property tax hike to pay for additional securityprojects, like hiring more resource officers. The problem is that the sheriffdoes not have any extra men to share with all the schools.
"I hope that these other school districts are able to findthe funds to hire resource officers at their school," Jeffery said. "I'd liketo 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 wouldallow the district to potentially hire another full-time resource officer. Untilthen, the agreement in place now is working well.
"This is something that we can continue on if we cancontinue to work this partnership," Rich said. "We said we would like to do ituntil the end of the school year. It may be something if we can to continue oneven farther than that.
"I think the number one, most positive thing we can do toprotect our kids is to have individual on our campus."