CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school board is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to have police officers in district middle and high schools and Columbia Center next fall.
The school resource officer initiative calls for five uniformed, armed police officers to be assigned to the buildings.
The city of Champaign would reassign three community police officers to the schools, and they would hire two more as well, said Champaign Assistant Superintendent Ecomet Burley. He said the school district would pay about 60 percent of the cost for the officers, or about $643,500 over three years. The money would cover salaries, equipment costs and physicals for the officers.
The school district has had off-duty police officers in the high schools and Columbia Center since last fall, after concerns over fights at school, particularly one at Central that slightly injured several staff members. It also added hall monitors.
Burley said the measures have had a "calming effect" at the schools.
If the school resource officers are approved, "we'll have someone permanently assigned to campus that will become part of the staff," he said. "They'll get to know students and be able to work in a lot of proactive ways."
In addition to keeping an eye on students, the officers will provide education about the dangers of drugs and criminal activity, help students understand the consequences of their actions and when incidents must be reported to police, and discuss the code of conduct during orientation, Burley said.
There have been objections to having uniformed, armed officers in the schools. School board President Margie Skirvin said she opposed their presence in the past but now believes they are warranted.
"It's become clear to me, on seeing what's happened and reading reports, that kids deserve to feel safe in the schools and parents deserve to feel their kids are safe in the schools," she said. "Kids can't be worrying about are they safe and still learn. I feel like it's time."