District 156 discusses bringing back school resource officers

McHENRY – School resource officers may return to the halls of McHenry high schools.
The District 156 school board sent the issue to its Finance Committee after Superintendent Mike Roberts made a presentation at the board’s Monday evening meet.

Roberts proposed that the district hire a full-time officer for each of the high schools and split the cost, the district paying 70 percent and the city of McHenry covering the remaining 30 percent.

The breakdown is based on the number of days they’re in the school versus doing city business, he said.

The Finance Committee’s job is make sure the program fits into the district’s budget, and if it issues a recommendation, the issue could be back before the full board for approval in November.

On the city’s end, Police Chief John Jones has not yet brought the discussion to the City Council, which would need to approve the hires and the added cost.

The hiring process would need to start in February in order to have the two new officers through the police academy before two more experienced officers moved into the school, Jones said.

The school resource officer program initially was created in 1997 with one officer splitting time between the two schools, according to Roberts’s presentation. A second officer was hired in 2000 when the city received a three-year grant.

After the grant expired, the city and the district kept the two positions, but when the district made cuts in 2009, the program was suspended, the documents said.

“The school districts see its importance, but in 2003, it was rough,” Roberts said. “It got cut, and so now the city and the school district are talking about the logistics of bringing it back in the buildings.”

Having an officer in the school helps in four main ways, Jones said.

Besides the safety role and the ability to take care of any situation – accidents, arrests, traffic – that comes up, the officer also can proactively work to prevent crimes and serve as a counselor and role model for students, he said.

“Having an officer at the school allows them to address it at the root cause instead of allowing it to fester and grow,” Jones said.

A high trust level between school resource officers and students has led, in the past, to preventing drug deals and fights, he said. It also helped police recover a gun stolen during a burglary from a student’s home.

Of 20 area high schools surveyed, only one other high school does not have a school resource officer, according to Roberts’ presentation. Fourteen of the schools have a dedicated, full-time officer and five have either part-time officers or share a full-time officer with another school.

Grant High School in Fox Lake also brought back a full-time school resource officer last year after cutting the position three years prior.

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School resource officers in area high schools

Of 22 area high schools surveyed, only McHenry East High School, McHenry West High School and Johnsburg High School don't have school resource officers.

Woodstock High School and Woodstock North High School share an officer. Harvard High School shares an officer with its junior high school. Richmond-Burton Community High School has a part-time officer, who averages 20 hours a week, and Marengo High School has an officer come in three days a week in the mornings.

Source: District 156

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