Basehor-Linwood district looking at adding school resource officer
The Basehor-Linwood School District has the opportunity to have a law enforcement officer in the halls of its schools, providing extra security, shouldering responsibilities and tasks that will allow staff more time to teach and manage, and giving students new educational experiences — all at nearly no cost to the district.
Accepting such an offer may seem like a “no-brainer,” superintendent David Howard said Monday, but it’s not quite that simple.
Leavenworth County Sheriff Dave Zoellner has offered to provide the district with a school resource officer from his office, Howard said at the Basehor-Linwood school board meeting on Monday. Howard asked Zoellner about the subject during a meeting regarding crisis management after a parent wrote the district last month asking that the district consider adding an SRO.
Budget restrictions would prevent the district from paying an officer’s salary, Howard said, but the sheriff’s offer would give the district the opportunity to join several other Leavenworth County districts that have SROs.
“Basically, all it would cost us would be an office, a desk, a phone and a computer,” Howard said.
Zoellner on Tuesday confirmed that he had offered to provide an officer to the school district.
“It’s money well spent for public service,” Zoellner said.
The sheriff’s office already provides officers to the Tonganoxie and Easton districts, though the Easton post is currently vacant while Zoellner looks for an officer to place there.
The school officers provide security and help handle any illegal activity that occurs on school grounds, Zoellner said, but they also help put a friendly face on the law enforcement profession for students who may have negative impressions of police.
“They interact with the students to let them know we’re parents and grandparents,” Zoellner said, “let them know we’re human beings. We’re not machines.”
This is the third school year that the Tonganoxie district has used an SRO from the sheriff’s office. Tonganoxie superintendent Kyle Hayden said the presence of the officer, who works in all the district’s buildings, helps prevent potential crimes, helps with the district’s DARE anti-drug education and also frees administrators and teachers from dealing with thefts and other issues.
“Ultimately, I think what it allows us to do from a school administrative standpoint is just to allow our administrators more time to focus on what’s going on in the classroom,” Hayden said.
Howard said at the school board meeting that high school administrators, especially, can be frequently distracted by student thefts, and an SRO could alleviate some of that burden.
But before the district places an armed officer in its hallways, Howard said he would like to consult two groups: the Basehor Police Department and district parents.
One reason the district had not accepted an SRO from the county in the past, Howard said, was unease on the part of local police about the prospect of a sheriff’s officer being stationed within the jurisdiction of the city police.
Basehor police chief Lloyd Martley said his department would support whatever decision the district made, but the presence of a county officer in the schools could complicate the relationship between Basehor police and the district. Right now, Basehor police typically handle enforcement and investigation of crimes taking place at the schools, he said.
“It’s just not an ideal situation,” Martley said, “because I feel we have the potential to lose a bit of the contact with the students that we deal with and the administration that we deal with.”
Martley said he knew the opportunity to add an officer largely free of charge would be tough to pass up, though, and Basehor police would be unable to provide the district with a full-time officer right now.
Hayden said the Tonganoxie SRO had not created any problems with the city’s police force, and the presence of the sheriff’s officer had freed police to devote resources to other areas of the city.
Howard said that he would also like administrators to survey parents of students at Basehor-Linwood High School, where an SRO would likely spend the majority of his or her time, asking how they would feel about having an armed officer in the school building.
School board members said they supported the idea of adding an SRO.
“It sounds like a good idea as long as you have some control over the person,” board member Doug Bittel said.
Also at the board meeting:
• Howard said the district did not plan to increase student fees for the 2011-12 school year.
He said he had occasionally heard complaints from parents around enrollment time about excessive fees, but he noted that students could actually enroll for as little as $55 in fees, most of which pays for textbook rentals. Extra costs, he said, come from additional items that parents sometimes pay for at enrollment, such as transportation, school lunches, collegiate dual-credit courses at the high school or yearbooks.
• The board and administrators watched a demonstration of pneumatic marble-sorting machine built by high school students in an engineering course.
• Administrators discussed the possibility of ending the use of contractor PCI Cleaning Services for janitorial services at Basehor Intermediate School and Basehor-Linwood Middle School and shifting to in-house janitorial employees, as are used at the rest of the district’s buildings.
The school board approved the following measures, each by a 7-0 vote:
• The addition of new gymnasium bleacher rails by the Carroll Seating Company at a cost of $15,195.
• A construction manager at-risk contract with McPherson Contractors, Inc., for $37,200 with a 3.75 percent subcontractor fee added.
• An out-of-state travel request for BLHS senior Emily Lynch to travel to a national forensics tournament in Washington, D.C., with sponsor Rebecca Knowles. All costs will be paid for by the BLHS forensics club.
• The appointment of Kristin Knoth as BLHS journalism teacher; the resignations of Leslie Tennyson as Basehor Elementary School second-grade teacher, Byron Kimmerly as BLMS language arts teacher and Kathryn Ruhe as elementary art teacher; and the termination of Kenneth McFarland as BLHS custodian.