ST. JOHN — The Lake Central School Corp. expects to have a third school resource officer soon and could have a total of five by the start of the 2019-20 school year.
St John Cpl. Mike Moffitt is assigned full-time to the high school during the school year, and the district pays a quarter of the cost of his salary and benefits while the rest is split equally among the three communities in the district. Dyer police Cpl. Jerry Patrick floats among the district's nine middle and elementary schools, and the school district pays 70 percent of his salary and benefits and Dyer pays the rest.
Superintendent Larry Veracco said at a recent School Board meeting Dyer is expected to assign a second officer to the district soon, and Schererville could assign one of its officers by the spring. Veracco said it might take St. John, which has the smallest department, until the start of the next school year to decide if it can hire an officer, who can be assigned to the district.
The new officers are expected to share coverage of the middle and elementary schools with Patrick, but Veracco said the officers are expected to spend more time at the three middle schools than at the elementaries. If Moffet has to be absent from the high school for any reason, one of the others is expected to fill in during the interim.
"It's important that we have trained officers in the schools because they receive ongoing training and they have contacts with the officers on other departments that will benefit us," Veracco said.
All the school resource officers will receive electronic keys that not only give them access to all the buildings but also let the school district track how often the officers were there, even if all they do is park their squad car in the lot and observe.
"We are not looking to monitor all their movements, but we need to know what we are getting for our money," Veracco said. "We need the support, and we are willing to pay for it."
During the successful spring referendum campaign, the district talked about using some of the new money to hire additional resource officers. Veracco said the officers are needed for situations other than violence at one of the schools. He said they might also be able to intercept an angry parent or be there to help someone for a number of problems.
The schools have been meeting with the police chiefs of Dyer, St. John and Schererville regularly on this issue and others, and schools Human Resources Director Terry Mucha told the School Board the chiefs have been very supportive. Veracco said he told the chiefs he is comfortable with a gradual ramping up of the number of officers in the schools to give the departments time to hire replacements.
Mucha said the chiefs have agreed to provide a police presence at the schools during the start of classes next week and will continue to have officers present in and around the schools and have additional patrols during the arrival and dismissal times each day.
"The departments have been hearing from constituents that they like having the school resource officers in our schools," Mucha said.