Local schools will receive several hundred thousand dollars in state money this school year through Indiana’s Safe Schools Safety Grants for fiscal year 2023.
The Franklin and Center Grove school districts received up to $100,000 of the matching grant. Clark-Pleasant received $60,000, Greenwood Community School Corporation schools received $52,318, and Indian Creek schools received $24,000, according to the grant list.
The grant requires a 50/50 match, so districts will also match the money provided by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the grant sponsor.
Each county school district plans to spend the funds on their school resource officer programs. School Resource Officers divide their time between their local police department or sheriff’s department and the schools with which they have agreements.
Schools also have agreements that they will contribute money to pay a portion of school resource officer salaries, sharing those costs with their home departments. At Franklin schools, for example, two of four school resource officer salaries are paid with school district money, while the other two are paid by the departments that employ them, said Nathan Wooten, an SRO from Franklin who works for Johnson County. sheriff’s office.
His salary, along with the salary of School Resource Officer Doug Cox, former Johnson County Sheriff, will be paid for by Franklin Schools through the Secured School Safety Grant and its counterpart.
Wooten spends her day greeting students when they arrive at school, ensuring visitors are escorted as they enter the school, checking exterior doors, monitoring lunchtime and accompany students to school buses when lessons are over.
“I think it’s been very beneficial for the schools to have us here, the students feel safer when we’re here,” Wooten said. “If we were on the street during the school day, we wouldn’t relate to the students.”
Franklin Schools will soon be hiring two more school resource officers, with the eventual goal of staffing eight, one for each school building, said Jeff Sewell, director of operations for Franklin Schools. The SRO program is about school safety, but has additional benefits, he said.
“It’s good to make sure we have the capacity to respond to emergencies in buildings whenever possible,” Sewell said. “The other thing I would really like to emphasize is cultivating an understanding of the role of law enforcement in the community. They are here to protect and serve the community, they are not someone we should fear. Much of the focus is on the relationship aspect of SRO and going to class to teach safety lessons.
Headteachers in Center Grove and Clark-Pleasant will use the money to hire additional school resource officers to support their internal school policing, while school administrators in Greenwood will use the money to help pay current SRO salaries, school officials said.
Spokespersons for Center Grove and Clark-Pleasant did not provide a specific number of officers the district plans to hire by Friday’s deadline.
Indian Creek has an SRO, but the school district is on a campus, so district officials say the officer can easily move from building to building. The SRO program provides a familiar face for students they can trust, said Andrea Perry, assistant superintendent.
“We really appreciate having someone physically present on campus every day in the buildings with the students,” Perry said. “He’s a familiar face to students and staff and someone who also works hand in hand with the administrative team.”
Edinburgh schools have not received a grant and do not have a school resource officer. The district’s SRO program began in the 2019-2020 school year and lasted just nine months. It was disbanded after the former District SRO accidentally discharged his gun while off duty.