According to Worthington Schools leaders, the introduction of school-resource officers has gone smoothly over the first weeks of the school year.

In June, the school board voted to reverse a longstanding policy on SROs, putting full-time officers on school grounds for the first time.

The decision was met with slight pushback from parents and students, but at the time, Assistant Superintendent Randy Banks, who handles security for the district, said school shootings in early 2018 made district leaders change their minds.

"Obviously, what's happened in our nation over the last couple months has continued that conversation," he said.

Less than three weeks after high school students returned Aug. 16, those involved in adding the SROs said they have nothing negative to say about their presence.

"It's really early, but I would say that things are going well," Banks said.

Worthington Division of Police officer Sean Ord is assigned to Thomas Worthington High School and Columbus Division of Police officer Steven Steenburgh is assigned to Worthington Kilbourne High School.

Thomas Worthington uses an officer from Worthington because the building is within its city limits and the jurisdiction of Worthington police, according to district spokeswoman Vicki Gnezda. Worthington Kilbourne is in Columbus city limits and within the jurisdiction of Columbus police.

Linworth Alternative Program, where high school students also are enrolled, does not have an SRO, Gnezda said.

Thomas Worthington principal Pete Scully said in an email that Ord is "in it for the right reasons, cares about kids and is working every day to build their trust."

"He has been working every day to meet kids, build relationships and make safety recommendations," Scully said. "He is quickly becoming an integral part of our team. Because he was on site last year for about three hours a day, his presence did not have a big splash. It seems to feel more like business as usual for kids."

Worthington Kilbourne principal Aric Thomas echoed those sentiments and agreed he has seen the first few weeks of the year as "business as usual."

Thomas said he appreciates that Steenburgh has been "visible" and that he has seen him talking regularly with students and staff members.

He said his goal is to reach the point that Steenburgh is as integrated as any other teacher or faculty member, though all parties involved remain early in the process.

"The best thing is that school-based officers are a resource and they're part of your team," Thomas said. "Building that team takes time -- getting to know the finer nuances between his style and our style and ensuring he fits in with culture. We like the progress we're making."

The next step in the SRO process will be to finalize the agreements between the school district and the cities of Columbus and Worthington.

Banks said both cities largely have agreed on a memorandum of understanding, but said an agreement hasn't officially been reached.

According to that memorandum of understanding, he said, the district would pay Columbus $111,780 per year and Worthington $79,545 per year.

Banks said the difference in pricing comes from the different handling of the officers. The Columbus officer, he said, will be assigned entirely to the school, while the Worthington officer will split his duties and costs between the city and the school district.

"Columbus bills us for the actual cost of the weeks we need an officer, and Worthington took the total cost of that officer and divided it 50/50," he said.

Banks reiterated that the district is tracking arrest rates and monitoring "how students feel" about the SROs, and will have an opportunity to assess the program at the end of the year.

But for now, Banks said he has been encouraged.

"It's been very limited in such a short period of time, but there has been no negative feedback," he said. "It's all been positive, and they're glad those officers are in place and feel like very friendly, approachable people."

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