Mehlville elementary schools will have an increased police presence for the rest of the school year.
Since the Newtown, CT, shooting, Mehlville School District Superintendent Eric Knost has participated in several conversations focused on student and staff safety. In addition to examining current policies, he’s also looked into methods of deterring incidents within schools.
“Things have settled down significantly, but clearly the conversation has to go forward,” he said.
The sentiment was echoed Thursday night at the district’s Board of Education meeting.
"My wife works in a school, she would have been right there in the hallway had it happened at that school, I know that, and that scared me. I still have kids in the district," board member Ron Fedorchak said. "My request to my fellow board members is that we do need to take this seriously."
Knost commended the St. Louis County Police precincts that serve the district, whose presence he said has “done a lot of work to help calm the nerves of our community.” He came to the board recommending officers' increased presence in the district’s elementary schools this semester.
The board unanimously approved $35,000 to staff four secondary officers at an hourly rate, which will help cover the elementary schools’ busiest hours.
The district currently employs seven school resource officers, one at each high school and middle school. Officers stationed at the middle schools also patrol two or three elementary schools each.
Funding for school resource officers costs the school district a little over $350,000 a year. The school district takes on about 75 percent of the financial burden, and the rest is picked up by the St. Louis County Police Department, assistant superintendent Brian Lane said.
Secondary officers are currently employed hourly at the Witzel Learning Center, afternoon hours at the high schools, and special events. These officers earn $25 an hour, Knost said.
The board approved four hours a day for the additional officers. New hours will be scheduled randomly, focusing on high-traffic times at district elementary schools—particularly during morning drop-off.
While the funds are approved for the semester, the board can evaluate at any point whether to expand or remove the extra officers.
It was a move Knost said he almost made without board approval over the winter break, though board members had no objection.
“[Safety] is not an area I like to be thrifty,” board member Mark Stoner said. “I don’t want to look back and say, ‘I wish I would have spent that.”
President Venki Paladmand commended the randomness of the schedule.
Watch for an update on what current safety practice the school district refined after the Sandy Hook shooting, and what one board member had to say about St. Louis County Police Department Chief Tim Fitch's comments on having guns present in schools.
See previous stories:
- Letter to the Editor: Oakville Student Challenges School Safety Measures
- St. Louis County Police Chief Wants to Arm School Officials With Guns
- Should Local Teachers Pack Pistols?
- Mehlville Schools Superintendent Reacts to Connecticut Shooting