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More officers for area schools

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Beginning with the 2014–15 school year, all eight of Stafford County’s middle schools will likely have school resource officers.

The state Criminal Justice Services Board has preliminarily approved a grant to partially fund six new resource officer positions, the county sheriff’s office said Tuesday.

Stafford is among two dozen Virginia localities to receive the grants and it’s the only one in the immediate Fredericksburg area.

The Stafford school system currently has resource officers at each of the county’s five high schools and two officers who split time between the county’s middle schools. The resource officers have offices in the school and are a constant presence there. This enables them to quickly respond to situations and to better keep abreast of potential problems before they occur, officials say.

Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy said that because of the time it will take to train and hire the new officers, the enhanced program won’t begin until fall of 2014.

The grant will help fund the training and half of the cost of hiring the new officers for the first year.

“Anytime we can help to ensure that our students and staff are in a safe environment, it is money well spent,” Kennedy said.

Area police and school systems have long discussed ways to improve school safety, especially in light of the mass shooting last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.

Some people have suggested putting resource officers in every school, including the elementary schools, but the estimated annual cost of between $60,000 and $70,000 per officer makes that unfeasible in most cases.

Among area school systems, Spotsylvania already has resource officers in each of its five high schools and seven middle schools, along with one at the alternative school in the John J. Wright building.

Fredericksburg city schools’ lone resource office, Keith Jones, is retiring in July. His replacement at James Monroe High School will be Officer Ken Sekuterski, said city police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404

kepps@freelancestar.com

 

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