Pointe Coupee upgrading school security

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board moved to upgrade campus security by agreeing to hire three new certified school resource officers and by purchasing $15,000 worth of two-way radios for key faculty and staff at five of the district’s schools.

The board’s unanimous decisions came Thursday night after members spent more than an hour talking about the need for heightened campus security in parish schools in response to the Dec. 14 mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Agreeing to a $170,000 contract with the Sheriff’s Office would permit the school district to hire resource officers for Rougon, Valverda and Upper Pointe Coupee elementary schools, according to a proposal Sheriff Bud Torres presented Thursday night.

“I know you’re struggling with heavy financial challenges, but we have to do the best we can,” Torres told the board. “The potential for violence on our campuses is the highest it’s ever been. There is no substitute for presence. I just believe in my heart this would be a huge deterrent for anyone trying to cause problems.”

The Sheriff’s Office would share some of the costs of outfitting and training the new resource officers, officials said.

The school district already has two resource officers, one assigned to Livonia High School and the other to Rosenwald Elementary School.

Board members decided that hiring three more resource officers and purchasing the two-way radios would be a practical and cost-effective way to address the school district’s immediate needs in regard to increasing school safety.

Meanwhile, the board will face decisions on what to do about more than $500,000 worth of other school campus security measures such as electric gates and recessed fencing at all its schools as well as a networked camera system.

The added fencing and other devices and equipment were listed in a package of proposed school safety upgrades Torres submitted to the board last month.

Board members said they would like to revisit the matter again after the costs of additional security measures could be compiled and other funding options can be determined.

“I’m searching every day to see if we can write a grant (request) to help curb these costs,” School Superintendent Linda D’Amico said. “I think there will be some out there because of what’s happening.”