The Warren County R-III district is working with the Warrenton and Truesdale, Missouri, police to add student resources officers to elementary schools.
The Warren County R-III school district is working with the cities of Warrenton and Truesdale to make more school resource officers available.
A school resource officer, or SRO, is a full commissioned police officer from a city department whose primary function is to make sure everyone is safe at school, superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith said.
The district currently has SROs at Black Hawk Middle School and Warrenton High School.
Those two SROs are both employed by the Warrenton Police Department, with those costs split between the city and the school district.
Now, school officials would like to add an SRO to Rebecca Boone, Daniel Boone, and Warrior Ridge elementary schools.
“The more security we have, the better,” Klinginsmith said.
If the SROs are added, the Daniel Boone and Warrior Ridge officers would be employed by the Warrenton police and the Rebecca Boone SRO would be a member of the Truesdale Police Department.
Both departments said they would have to hire new officers specifically to serve as SROs.
Warrenton City Administrator Brandie Walters said the city is currently reviewing its agreement and hopes to have it ready for aldermen to vote on at the next meeting.
She said if aldermen approve the new agreement, the city would begin advertising the two positions immediately.
Neither Warrenton nor Truesdale have yet approved money for the positions, but officials in both cities made it clear during recent meetings they support the expansion.
“I think it’d be good in this day and age of school shootings and school violence,” Truesdale Mayor Jerry Cannon said.
Cannon, who is also a middle school teacher, said it’s important to protect the kids.
“With everything that’s going on and how easy it is to get into a school and just all the safety that goes around, we’re investing in our own kids,” he said during the Aug. 23 meeting.
Warrenton officials expressed a similar thought.
“The city, as far as the board and mayor, as well as city staff are proud to be supporters of the SROs in school,” Walters said.
Warrenton officials said Klinginsmith and the district offered to pay two-thirds of the cost of the officers, which would amount to the city paying an additional $25,000.
Walters and Finance Manager Dana Belaska said the city could afford that, and Alderman Roger Romaker said the total “is pretty cost effective for an officer.”
In Truesdale, the cost of the new officer would be split 50-50, City Clerk Elsa Smith-Fernandez told aldermen.
Both cities said they still had some details to work out and would discuss the issue again at a future meeting.
Klinginsmith also said the cost of the new officers was something the school district could afford, saying the cost would be roughly an extra $150,000.
“Now that our budgets are healthier, we have an opportunity to increase security,” he said.
“So we’re hopeful to be able to do that. … Security is one of those things you just can’t have enough of, so we’re thankful that it sounds like the cities was to increase this and help support the cause.”
But the SRO program isn’t just about security, Klinginsmith said. Officers can help with a number of other issues school districts face.
“It might just be helping us interpret the law if we have a custody dispute, so it’s great for the SRO to help get into the documents that they have access to to help tort that out,” Klinginsmith said.
“And things like directing traffic or de-escalating a threat, any of that stuff is something that they would find valuable.”
Klinginsmith said that value is what makes SROs such an important part of the school.
“We want to build a positive relationship with our police department,” Klinginsmith said.
“So it gives our students opportunities to know the police officers and that they’re there to help and that we’re really working together as a community to keep everyone safe.”
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com