West York school board approves two school resource officers

West York Area Middle School

After a school year of threats, districts across York County are preparing for the upcoming year with a renewed focus on safety.

A few that have acted recently are South Western, which voted to hire armed security guards for each of the district's six schools, and Southern York County and South Eastern districts, which contracted with Southern Regional Police Department for school resource officers.

More:Some support armed guards in South Western schools but ask if more is needed

More:South Western approves armed guard contract, passes tax increase

West York is the latest district to update its school safety policies, approving two school resource officers from West Manchester Township Police Department for 2018-19.

The school board voted unanimously in favor of hiring the officers at its June 19 meeting. Members Donald Carl and Douglas Hoover were absent. 

Reached afterward, board member George Margetas said the proposal to hire an SRO had received good feedback from the community, which was one reason he supported it. 

"I think that in the long run, the kids are going to see them not as police officers as much as another resource the school is providing them, and I think that's invaluable," he said.

The idea is part of Superintendent Todd Davies' three-year "Every Student Every Day" plan, which he implemented in February following his December hire.

More:West York board approves full-day kindergarten, SROs as part of 3-year agenda

His hope was to "build and strengthen ties in the community and keep students safe," said district communications coordinator Cindi Greco.

The district had officers from West Manchester Township and West York police departments at certain school functions in the latter half of the past school year, but this move marks an increase to full-time patrol officers covering all schools.

The next step will be receiving final approval from West Manchester Township, Greco said. 

After that, the police department can hire the SROs, with a mutual agreement with the district that each officer is a good fit.

West York Area School Board members (L to R) Donald Carl, Suzanne Smith, Rodney Drawbaugh and Lynn Kohler, at the June 12 work session meeting.

Agreement: The agreement is for two full-time officers to serve three years, beginning July 1, 2018, and ending June 30, 2021.

Each officer will cost the district $125,000 per year, in addition to a portion of costs shared by the township. If officers work more than their annual contracted 1,560 hours, the district will pay an hourly overtime rate.

"It was a good show of cooperation between the district and the township," Margetas said. He noted that the district's costs are accounted for in the 2018-19 budget, which dips into the general fund reserve but does not include a tax increase.

The district, township and department, in accordance with the agreement, will cooperate to pursue private, state and/or federal grants to pay for the services or any related expenses.

Gov. Tom Wolf's recently passed 2018-19 state budget included $60 million in grant funding for school safety, which could be one avenue to pursue.

All grant money will be split, with 75 percent going to the district and 25 percent going to the township, the agreement states.

Duties: The SROs will patrol the district's school buildings, athletic facilities, grounds and surrounding areas, monitoring and responding to criminal activity during a regular schedule of 7:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In addition, the officers will meet with school officials to exchange info on crime trends and problem areas within or surrounding schools, and they will assist the district with noncriminal incidents, according to the department's job description.

They will be instructed to initiate interaction with students, be positive role models and be visible and accessible within the school community, the document states.

The officers also will work with district staff to establish entry and exit safety protocols and manage training for staff and students in active shooter and school-related scenarios.