The Crown Point Community School Corp. has solidified a partnership with the city of Crown Point to add three additional school resource officers next fall.
That will bring the corporation’s total to four beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
The agreement, approved recently by the Crown Point Board of Public Works and Safety, is just one product stemming from a strong relationship between the school corporation and first responders from Crown Point, Cedar Lake and Winfield, Superintendent Teresa Eineman said in a statement.
The plan calls for two officers to be placed at Crown Point High School, one at Colonel John Wheeler Middle School, and one at Robert A. Taft Middle School. The elementary schools in Winfield, Cedar Lake and Crown Point are supported through local patrol officers visiting campus sites daily and interacting with faculty, staff and students, the statement said.
Police Chief Pete Land said the department has had an officer full-time in the high school for more than 15 years. The city and the school district have been talking for about two years on how to have an additional officer in the high school and one in each of the two middle schools.
Under the agreement, the school district will pay 70 percent of the cost of each officer's salary and benefits with the city paying the rest. Land said the cost of the salary, benefits, uniform allowance, training and other things is about $90,000 a year for each officer, so the schools will pay $63,000. For Land, it will be like getting three new officers for the price of one.
"We've had discussions with them of possibly expanding the SRO program for many reasons, but the big hang-up was the expense," Land said. "We have a great partnership with the school corporation, and the schools and the city just reached a point with what we've seen around the nation that we felt now was the time to get it done."
He said the department is already in the process of doing background checks on hiring three officers, but the new officers aren't likely to be the ones assigned to the schools. Instead, three current officers will be assigned, and the new hires will fill the vacancies created by the SROs.
Each SRO undergoes special training at the police academy, for which the school district will pay, and the school also has training they will receive, Land said. The agreement is for five years and will automatically renew for two-year increments unless either party gives 18-month written notification of termination. The hirings will bring the department to 48 officers.
The officers will work in the schools 182 days a year and, in addition to providing a deterrent to possible violence or unlawful entry to the buildings, they will work to create a positive rapport with all students, promote a safe and orderly school environment and foster relationships with students, parents and staff based on mutual respect and trust.
They also assist with supervision at school functions and enforcement of the schools' student code of conduct.
Although no officers are planned for the elementary schools, Land said the DARE officer teaches at a different elementary each day and also visits two other schools after the class to have lunch with the students.
The department also stations an officer in front of all the elementary schools each morning while they are being dropped off by parents or guardians. This program started three years ago, and the officers are assigned to the same school each day so they can get to know the children, Land said.
"I'm glad we were able to get this done," Land said of the newest SRO agreement. "We worked very hard over the last couple of years to get it done, and I'm anxious to get it started."
School Board President David Warne said, "The School Board is thankful and proud of the work that has been done between CPCSC, city officials and the CPPD. School safety has been at the top of our priority list. We are confident that we have the right leaders doing all they can to keep our children safe and will continue to improve school safety programs, services, training and facility enhancements.”