By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools officials are looking to improve safety and security in the district’s schools by adding more school resource police officers from local law enforcement agencies.
Groveport Madison previously contracted for one Madison Township officer and one city of Groveport officer to serve as school resource officers.
Recently, the Groveport Madison Board of Education approved a three-year memorandum of understanding with Madison Township for two Madison Township Police officers to serve as school resource officers. One officer will primarily work at the high school and the other requested officer could work in the district’s other schools in the north side of the district.
The school district will cover 70 percent of salary and benefit costs, along with other costs. The township will cover the remaining 30 percent of the officer’s salary.
Groveport City Council is also considering legislation for a three year contract with Groveport Madison for the city to provide potentially two Groveport Police officers as school resource officers for the district.
Under the contract the city would provide one officer to serve as a full time school resource officer at the high school and potentially an additional officer to perform duties at the schools on the south side of the district as well as helping at the high school.
The school district would provide 70 percent of the $126,500 total annual cost of the yearly salary, benefits, retirement, and additional costs. The remaining 30 percent is covered by the city.
“We’re trying to increase our collaboration and partnership and with the three year contracts to show our commitment to the city of Groveport and Madison Township,” said Groveport Madison Deputy Superintendent Paul Smathers at Groveport City Council’s June 20 meeting.
Smathers said the district is requesting a second officer from the Groveport Police, but he emphasized there is “no pressure” from the school district regarding the request.
“Our current partnership has been amazing,” said Smathers. “When we’ve needed help it’s been there.”
As part of the district’s ongoing safety and security measures, Smathers said the district currently has five of its own security officers and is planning on hiring five more. The plan is to have seven of these security officers at the high school and three others covering the elementaries and middle schools.
Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams said that, if council approves the agreement that would include the additional officer, the city would have to hire an officer to fill the position and the earliest this officer could be on the job would be the first quarter of 2024.
“Hiring officers is not an overnight process,” said Adams.
Adams also noted the police department has two to three officers who are eligible to exercise their option for retirement in the next two years who, if they retired, would need to be replaced.
Groveport City Administrator B.J. King said, if the city does provide a second school resource officer, the police department’s current staffing level could not handle it.
“We’d have to expand the police staff by at least one with council’s approval,” said King.
Currently there are 25 full time officers in the Groveport Police Department.
A factor to be considered and addressed is making sure the additional school resource officer does not adversely affect police patrol coverage in the rest of the city.
“We don’t want to get caught short handed,” said Councilman Shawn Cleary.
According to Adams, there are four officers assigned per each eight hour shift – which includes a sergeant and three patrol officers. However, all four are not on duty at once because one of them is off duty for their two days off per week, which means each shift normally has a sergeant and two patrol officers.
“Before we add another school resource officer I want to first make sure we always have our full complement of officers on patrol per shift,” said Adams.
Councilman Ed Dildine believes the city can absorb the cost of expanding police service. He said that an additional school resource officer would help keep other officers patrolling the streets instead of responding to problems at the schools.
Council will vote on the proposed school resource officer agreement at a future meeting.