The Hilliard Division of Police will increase the number of school resource officers in the Hilliard City Schools by two, but it is not likely to occur until the 2020-21 school year.

It is possible that the two new SROs could be assigned full-time to the district's middle schools during the next school year but "it's a very low likelihood," police Chief Bobby Fisher said.

Each of the district's three high schools, Bradley, Darby and Davidson, has a full-time SRO and a fourth splits time among Heritage, Memorial and Weaver middle schools.

Those SROs are Josh Barnett at Bradley, Jon Gleason at Darby, Richard Quigley at Davidson and Bill Okey at the middle schools, according to Andrea Litchfield, a Hilliard police spokeswoman.

The two new SROs would would mean an SRO would be assigned to each of the three middle schools and three high schools, Litchfield said.

Hilliard City Council member Les Carrier is a proponent of the new SROs and said he is hopeful they can be added sooner rather than later.

"It is our fundamental obligation to provide the safest environment possible for our children," he said.

Carrier supported adjusting the city's 2019 general-fund operating budget to fund the two additional police officers and City Council approved that budget Dec. 10 with a 4-0 vote. Council Vice President Kelly McGivern, councilman Andy Teater and Carrier were absent.

The operating budget provides funding for two new patrol officers and both additional SROs, if the positions can be filled, and covers salaries and benefits for a total of 64 police officers, finance director David Delande said.

The $27.1 million budget has a $120,000 carryover, Delande said.

Although funded, filling the SRO positions with experienced officers is another matter, and it would require new officers to replace the new SROs, according to Fisher and safety director Jim Mosic.

It takes approximately 18 months to complete the hiring process of a police officer, including testing, interviewing and background checks, police academy graduation and, finally, field training, Fisher said.

Four officers are expected to graduate from the Columbus Police Academy in January and complete field training in April, Litchfield said.

Including those four graduates, Hilliard has 58 officers, Fisher said.

"We will still be two officers down," Mosic said, referring to the authorized strength of 60, a figure that will increase to 64 next year.

A new testing period for Hilliard police officers is expected to begin in January, and four officers from that period are expected to enter the next Columbus Police Academy in June, Litchfield said.

Two of these four new officers would allow police to provide the additional SROs at the middle-school level, Mosic said.

However, any unexpected retirements or other departures would delay the assignment of two new SROs.

The SROs would be chosen through a job posting that would allow senior officers in the patrol bureau to move into the positions, Mosic said. The newly hired officers would move into the patrol bureau to replace them.

"We won't reduce the number of officers on the street (to supply additional SROs)," Fisher said.

The addition of individual SROS at each middle school could occur sooner if any of the four future candidates in the June class already have graduated from a police academy, Mosic said.

This could only occur if a Hilliard police officer is hired from another department, something that is not typical, he said.

Hilliard Superintendent John Marschhausen said the additional SROs at each of the district's middle schools would benefit the district and its students, and he hopes the middle-school SROs could occasionally interact at the elementary schools in the district, augmenting a retired officer who rotates among the 14 elementary schools.

Bob Parkey, a retired Hilliard police officer, serves as a school safety officer for the elementary schools.

"He is not considered an SRO but does spend time in the (elementary) school in uniform," Litchfield said.

Apart from funding, the school district and the police division would need to forge a revised plan for the new SROs.

"A revised agreement and commitment between the school district and the police division is currently in process for formal approval," Litchfield said.

That agreement includes the district's share of funding for the SROs.

In the current agreement, the district covers about 70 percent of the annual cost for each officer, paying for the approximately nine months the officers are in the school buildings but none of the cost during the summer when the officers resume patrol duties, Fisher said.

For the 2018-19 school year, the district paid the city approximately $114,000 for each of the three high school SROs and $102,000 for the middle school SRO.

The costs include salary, benefits, pension contributions, uniforms, cellphones, mileage and training, Mosic said.

But it is worth the cost, according to district administrators.

Principal Joyce Brickley said Darby's SRO, Gleason, is an integral part of the school.

"The presence of having officer Gleason as our SRO at Darby has been very effective in our connectedness to Hilliard police," Brickley said. "Jon has formed positive relationships with the Darby staff, students and community, and his presence and visibility have helped to create a safe learning environment for our students."