BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ) – The Tussey Mountain school board on Monday evening approved a new School Resource Officer (SRO).
The approval came after a discussion between members of the board and members of the School Safety Committee, including Saxton Mayor Alan Smith, who responded to several questions regarding the district`s agreement expectations.
Board members voted unanimously for a new SRO.
The board, School Safety Committee and Saxton Borough Council have been working to renew the SRO agreement which expired June 30. Several school board members expressed the need to have full-time SRO coverage by borough officers at the middle school/high school and elementary center.
Smith told school board members that the council is hoping to hire a fourth police officer, with one interview scheduled for Tuesday in the borough chambers.
Once the new officer begins his duties the borough believes that the officers can meet the school district`s requirement that there be an SRO on duty at both buildings on a full-time basis.
Since there will be a short gap in SRO coverage (school begins on Monday, Aug. 22), the school district sanctioned a motion that extends the old agreement until the fourth police officer comes on board. Once that happens, a new, one-year agreement will be written.
There was talk about making the deal for two years, but it was agreed that the deal could be revisited in a year once the effectiveness of the new agreement is studied.
Smith stressed the need for a new 2022-23 agreement to set the stage for the hiring of the fourth police officer. With another officer expected to be on board soon, the mayor indicated that coverage would improve nearly 100 percent although there could be brief periods when one or more officers would have to appear in court for other incidents.
Also, the need for police to leave the school to assist elsewhere would be limited to life-threatening situations, Smith noted.
The agreement also stipulates that SRO officers would be paid at a rate not to exceed $275 a day per officer. The motion also specified that the coverage would be full-time, involving eight and one-half hours a day.
Earlier in the school board session, Smith, along with other members of the school safety committee, presented a summary of the history of the committee, which dates back six years.
Mark Taylor, longtime Saxton fire chief and chairman of the School Safety Committee, outlined the extensive training, drills and other preparedness exercises that took place at the schools including simulated active shooter drills involving law enforcement personnel, emergency response personnel, teachers, school administrators and students.
“We are confident we are prepared,” Taylor remarked. “The training has been a collaborative effort of many, and we are proud of all of you.”