By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
For 21st Century Media
OXFORD - The Oxford Area School District will be putting a security officer on campus soon with the help of a $40,000 grant secured with the assistance of State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” district Superintendent David Woods said, referencing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last year as well as the earlier Nickel Mines Amish School attack.
Woods said he does not feel Oxford schools are under any particular threat at this time, but there is still a need to take sensible precautions. “Schools are statistically one of the safest places in the nation,” he said. “When our community sees violence somewhere else, they personalize that.”
At the time of the Sandy Hook shootings, Woods was working at the Riverside school district. “Right after the tragedy in Connecticut I was faced with teachers being concerned, students not being able to concentrate. We had teachers, parents and students that were concerned,” he said. “The district acted immediately and in a couple of weeks we had a police officer in every school. We can now learn, we can concentrate because we feel safe.”
Across the state $3.9 million in grant funding went to 91 entities for school resource officers and school police officers. Eligible schools and municipalities could apply for up to $60,000 for a school resource officer and up to $40,000 for a school police officer. Grantees are required to fund the officer’s position for at least two years. Pending available funding for the 2014-15 school year, grantees will be eligible to receive 50 percent of their 2013-14 award without reapplying. The next step for the school district is for the board’s security and safety committee to decide on a security firm to contract with and an individual to hire.
“One of the items we look at in personnel is a person who can relate to the students. He should be there as a role model,” Woods said.
A total of 114 applications were received and reviewed based on guidelines of the grant program. Priority for funding was given to schools and municipalities that employ officers who have completed additional training related to interaction with children and adolescents within a school setting.
The two options for the funding granted $60,000 for a school resource officer, provided through the state police or local police departments. The $40,000 grant program Oxford applied for and received instead allows the district to contract with a private agency for services.
“We have a balancing act between our budget and everything we want,” Woods said. “This is something we appreciate from the state and from Mr. Dinniman.”