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School Safety

Molly Harris, Carbondale High School’s school resource officer, monitors the halls between classes in March. The Jackson County Board on Tuesday voted to hire sheriff's deputies to staff rural schools in the county.

MURPHYSBORO — The Jackson County Board voted to allow the hire of two deputies to the Sheriff’s Office, as well as an additional vehicle to support the officers' presence in the county's schools.

The measure was to support the county’s School Resource Officer Program. The officers would serve the Trico, Elverado, De Soto, Unity Point and Giant City school districts.

Jackson County Sheriff Robert Burns said Tuesday that Carbondale has its own resource officer. Jackson County Board Chairman John Rendleman said he was informed there is an officer who does monitor the school, but functions more as a departmental liaison to the high school.

Burns said the officers in the schools would not be new officers on the job, but those with at least 15 years of experience and those who have previously worked with juveniles.

“This is an important issue,” he said. “We have been meeting with all the school districts in Jackson County and they are all pretty supportive of this.”

According to the proposal by the Sheriff’s Office, the deputies will provide a variety of educational resources, give law enforcement information and advice to students and parents, and create a law enforcement presence.

One deputy would be assigned to Trico for 174 days of school. The other officer would be split between Elverado (50 percent of the time); De Soto (25 percent); Unity Point (12.5 percent); and Giant City (12.5 percent).

Larry Lovel, Trico School District superintendent, said his school district is the farthest away from other departments.

He said he was informed by a deputy that if a crisis situation were to occur on Trico’s campus, the school could be without a police presence for up to 25 minutes.

“We have taken our school crisis and prevention services a step further by supplying each classroom with a triage kit,” Lovel said. “We are unique only because our location in regards to other departments that would respond in critical instances.”

Kevin Spain, Elverado superintendent, said it is aggravating and saddening that this type of conversation has to happen, but “it’s the time we live in.”

“Our most precious commodity is our children and we have to protect them,” he said. 

Giant City Superintendent Belinda Hill said her district has benefited from the Sheriff’s Office training the staff on an active shooter situation. She said this program would be a great way for the community to develop relationships with the police, so communication can be more clear.

“I think this would be an excellent way for deputies to build that trust relationship within our community, children and our parents,” she said. “That is the way we are going to get things to slow down.”

The cost of the first-year deputy is about $70,000, including salary and all benefits. Trico would contribute $38,058.15 a year, De Soto would contribute $11,710.20, Elverado a total of $24,420.40 and Unity Point and Giant City would each contribute $5,855.10.

The school district contributions add up to $84,898.95. Hiring two additonal deputies would require another $55,101.05, which would need to be covered by the county.

The board approved the program but will vote on the financial contribution when it votes on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

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on twitter: @zd2000



Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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