In an effort to enhance school security, the city of Upper Arlington and Upper Arlington Schools have agreed to dedicate two additional police officers to district buildings next school year.
For the past five years, an agreement between the Upper Arlington Police Division and UA Schools has resulted in two police officers being assigned to district buildings.
Known as school resource officers, the police officers' roles are to provide security at buildings and serve as liaisons for students and staff to address safety concerns.
Thus far, one officer, Jon Rice, is assigned to Upper Arlington High School and the other, Josh Luke, splits his time between the district's two middle schools. While they spend the bulk of their time at those assigned buildings, they also respond to issues and make appearances at the district's other six buildings.
Beginning next school year, there will be two additional SROs -- Travis Goodman and Don Stanko -- assigned to the district to provide an increased presence at the middle schools and the elementary buildings.
Karen Truett, the district's communications director, said the plan is to have officers assigned to the high school and each middle school with the fourth officer rotating among the elementaries and Burbank Early Childhood School.
The positions were made possible after funding was provided by Upper Arlington City Council.
According to the Upper Arlington Finance Division, the cost of the four SROs is $530,000 in 2019. The city and district each pay $265,000.
In 2020, those costs are expected to rise to $542,000, with the city and district each contributing $271,000.
"Our school resource officers help us build a positive school culture by developing relationships with students, staff and families," Superintendent Paul Imhoff said. "They become an additional confidante and role model for our students.
"The SROs bring that constant eye on safety to every building," he said. "In addition, they build positive relationships with students, staff and families. We believe strongly in the idea of 'see something, say something,' and the relationships with these officers is a great support for that."
Imhoff acknowledged the officers are an additional security measure, and UAPD Officer Bryan McKean called them an "invaluable" asset for maintaining a safe environment at schools.
"Having an officer at the school means response time is zero seconds to any critical incident," McKean said. "However, beyond the security they provide, SROs are building relationships with students outside of enforcement activities.
"These relationships drive the real value."
McKean said in addition to looking for potential trouble at buildings, SROs interact with students and staff regularly during the school day, which builds trust.
The officers currently are receiving training to transition to the new positions.
Imhoff said he's looking forward to their added presence.
"They will be full time in the schools beginning with the 2019-20 school year. "The SROs will provide another layer of safety for our schools and continue to build positive relationships with students, staff and the community."