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Boyle district may add two school resource officers: Safety plan calls for $425,000 in upgrades, changes over three years

Boyle County School District would add two new school resource officers and implement a bevy of changes and upgrades designed to improve school safety under a draft plan released this week.

The School Safety Strategic Plan was previewed for school board members Thursday night and released to the public Friday. The changes, upgrades and new officers recommended in the plan would cost almost $425,000 over the next three years.

Superintendent Mike LaFavers said funding for the first year of the plan’s recommendations — $167,500 — is already accounted for in the district’s 2018-19 budget. That’s on top of other safety improvements the district has already implemented.

“We’ve spent a lot of money already. We made a big commitment to safety as a school district already,” Superintendent Mike LaFavers said. “This is simply new funds that we think will take us further. And in 2018, we think we need to go further. We’ve heard from all of our stakeholders and that’s what they told us, and we’re trying to respond to that.”

Ben Kleppinger/ben.kleppinger@amnews.com
Boyle County Assistant Superintendent Chris Holderman talks to board members during Thursday night’s school board meeting.

The highest priority of the draft plan is the addition of two school resource officers, which would cost an estimated $100,000 annually.

LaFavers and Assistant Superintendent Chris Holderman said the plan was developed by a 20-member strategic planning committee focused on addressing school safety. The committee was formed after school shootings in Marshall County and Florida early this year, LaFavers said.

“The committee began work by gathering feedback from students and staff with small group discussions that occurred in February, March and April,” according to a summary presentation on the plan provided by the district. “This strategic plan addresses potential vulnerabilities and recommended solutions to ensure the safety of all Boyle County students and staff.”

Holderman said it was “loud and clear from everyone” that adding school resource officers should be the top priority. In addition to having three total officers for the district’s five schools, Holderman said the district believes it’s important to have a law enforcement presence at all schools in the mornings when students are arriving. So, a plan is being worked out to have a morning presence at Junction City and Perryville elementary schools.

The draft plan lists four other high-priority changes, listed in order of importance:

• additional lockdown drills and training;

• monitoring of all exterior doors and visitor management;

• student connectedness and mental health; and

• supervision and communication.

The plan includes 17 goals grouped into four areas — mental health; safety drills and protocols; supervision; and security.

• Mental health: The plan recommends spending $5,000 in year one on mental health goals, which include surveying students and teachers about “connectedness,” monitoring students “to ensure connectedness, lessons for students that help build “resilience,” and education for parents and teachers so they can identify and help with children’s mental health needs.

• Safety drills and protocols: The plan calls for $14,500 in year one and an ongoing cost of $5,700 annually in this area. The most noticeable goal would be strict control of visitors. All schools would have access to a visitor badge system that would use driver’s licenses to conduct quick background checks on anyone entering the schools. And the badges would potentially be high-tech — they would include visitors’ photos and they would expire so anyone could see if a visitor had stayed too long, according to district staff. There would also be more lockdown drills and an increased emphasis on staff always wearing their badges and classroom doors always being locked during instruction.

• Supervision: The plan recommends spending $14,000 in year one and $5,000 annually after that for changes in supervision. Staff would be trained in “active supervision” and schools would maintain a ratio of one active supervisor for every 100 students in common areas such as gymnasiums and cafeterias. Gates would be kept locked after 3:30 p.m. in order to improve safety during extracurricular activities; bus cameras would be upgraded; students would receive assigned seating on buses; and coaches would need to develop plans for getting players into buildings after hours, due to all entrances being locked.

• Security: The most costly of the areas is security, with an estimated $134,000 needed in year one and $113,000 needed annually after that. The bulk of those funds would go to pay for two additional school resource officers. Additional expenses would include $10,000 for safety coverage at Junction City and Perryville elementary schools; $15,000 for “door-monitoring hardware;” $3,000 for a door-monitoring subscription; and $6,000 for computer monitors.

LaFavers said not all of the cost of the plan would be borne by the district’s general fund. About half the cost in year one would be covered by state and federal grant money; about two-thirds of the costs in years two and three would be covered by grant funding.

According to staff, some of the most noticeable effects of the plan would be the new visitor procedures and the fact parents would no longer be allowed to enter school with their kids in the mornings.

Bernice Bates, principal at Woodlawn Elementary and a member of the strategic planning committee, said in studying the issue of safety and school access, it was “eye-opening” to see how many people wind up inside the school building in the mornings, many of them without signing in.

If the plan is implemented, Bates said parents will “drop and go” at elementary schools after the Labor Day holiday. Previously, parents have been allowed to spend half an hour or more inside the school with their kids, even going into their first classes with them, she said.

“It’s just not safe and there’s just too many people that’s in our building,” she said. “That’s going to be a big culture change. It’s something we’re going to have to communicate. But overall … it’s just going to be the safer option for students.”

LaFavers noted for some of the recommendations, the district will have to ask for bids; on others, like the addition of school resource officers, there are complicated processes that will take time.

“You can’t just snap your fingers and then all of this happens,” he said.

LaFavers estimated the first changes probably wouldn’t start happening until after the district’s fall break.

“I’m very impressed with how thought-out every piece of this is,” said Jennifer Newby, school board chair. “I truly appreciate each and every person who worked on this.”

Board member Laura Guerrant said she agreed. “It’s fantastic. It’s sad that we have to have these types of things, but it’s a very well-thought-out plan.”

Guerrant questioned whether spending on mental health improvements should continue after year one. The plan current calls for a $5,000 expense in the first year, then no expense after that. She was told there are already other steps put in place to help with students’ mental health and the money spent year one is for resources that will continue to be used in future years.

LaFavers said Thursday night he did not want approval of the plan from the school board members yet. Instead, he wanted them to review the plan, ask questions and make any suggestions for changes first. The district wants input from the public on the plan as well, he said.

The board could consider approving the plan at its August meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Boyle County High School library.

In other business, the board voted to continue partnering with the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office for its school resource officer program. LaFavers said the district pays the sheriff’s office $25,000 for one officer, and the sheriff’s office helps cover a portion of the officer’s salary as well.

MORE ONLINE

Members of the public are invited to review a draft of Boyle County Schools’ School Safety Strategic Plan online at http://bit.ly/BCSsafetyplan2018.

SO YOU KNOW

Boyle County Schools Director of Finance David Morris presented a treasurer’s report to the Board of Education Thursday night, revealing he expects the district to end its 2017-18 fiscal year “around $580,000 (or) $590,000 in the black.”

“That’s a really positive number,” Morris said.

The district was also able to make a number of capital improvements and retire some debt, putting it in a strong financial position going forward, he said.

Superintendent Mike LaFavers attributed the good news to district staff working hard to “see where we could pinch pennies” because they anticipated “a tough year.” LaFavers said the district made “a lot of small decisions — thousands of them” that added up.