Canonsburg Middle School secures police officer

Published Feb 10, 2014 at 12:20 pm (Updated Feb 10, 2014 at 12:20 pm)

With no quick fix to end school violence in sight, many districts have begun taking preemptive measures instead. For some, that means bolstering security by bringing full-time police and resource officers into schools.

Canonsburg Middle School became one of the most recent schools to provide full-time police services. The one-year agreement between Canonsburg Borough and the district, reached in December, ensures that a Canonsburg officer will be stationed at the middle school while class is in session. Canonsburg officers also plan to continue foot patrols and random checks at other schools within the district.

The agreement with the middle school is the second of its kind within the Canon-McMillan School District. The district secured a North Strabane Township police officer in the high school for an annual cost of $55,000, which went into effect at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

The school district pays officers at Canonsburg Middle School an hourly rate of $46.17. Canonsburg officers take turns working shifts at the middle school, and they resume their usual borough duties in the event of school delays or cancellations.

Superintendent Michael Daniels said he felt it was important to provide more security in the district after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Daniels said he hopes the district can ultimately afford officers at more schools in the district, but it currently isn’t feasible without state assistance.

“After Sandy Hook, my intention was to have an officer in every single building, but because we’re footing the bill, you can’t do that – that just can’t happen financially,” Daniels said. “We’ve done what we could to pull off the budgeting just to get these two officers in place at this point, so going into the next year, I’m not sure what (the agreement will) look like.”

Some schools in the area received funding for police and resource officers through the state’s Safe Schools Grant Program, but Daniels said the district was not eligible for that grant.

Daniels said in addition to the police presence at the middle school, administration is also considering other security measures for the building. In the space between the main office and hallway leading to classrooms, Daniels hopes to construct an additional barrier so visitors would have to be granted access by a school official. He said they are currently discussing plans with an architect.

Canonsburg police Chief R.T. Bell said the current set-up of rotating officers in the middle school is beneficial because in the event of an emergency, all officers will understand the school’s daily operations.

“We feel right now it gives a chance for all of our officers to learn the operations up there by being there,” Bell said. “It gives them all a better relationship with the staff.”

Canonsburg Borough Officer Carl Fetcko said middle school students seem receptive to having a police officer in the building. He said he tries to keep it casual, and some of the students call him “Cop Carl.”

“It’s good to build a rapport and a relationship with the kids when they’re younger,” said Fetcko, adding he hopes it will show children that police officers can be trusted.

Canonsburg Mayor Dave Rhome said the borough will continue to work with school officials, as well as Cecil and North Strabane townships, to ensure that all schools in the area are safe and secure.

“For the safety of our children in our schools,” Rhome said, “the mayor and the chief believe that this was paramount that we implement this as quick as possible.”

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