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Norwood-Norfolk board to mull police in schools

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NORFOLK — Norwood-Norfolk school officials are going to review a proposal to place a proposition on the ballot in May that would commit tax money to fund police officers at the building on school days.

But first they want to look at other funding sources.

Town Councilman Robert J. Harvey told the council this week that the Norwood-Norfolk Central School District Board of Education will consider at its meeting Tuesday whether the district wants to move forward with a proposition that would increase school taxes to hire retired police officers to work at the school when classes are in session.

The school would rotate several retired officers as a way to avoid the costs of pension or other benefits.

The position is estimated to cost $22,000 to $24,000 per year.

“Norfolk is proposing to organize a police presence in our school building, meaning their dispatcher would make sure either an officer from the Norwood or Norfolk police departments would have some degree of presence here,” said Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie.

The long-range plan, however, is to bring in a retired police officer to ensure there is a police presence at Norwood-Norfolk.

That would require providing appropriate training, Mrs. Kirnie said, adding the person would not be considered a school resource officer, but would provide a presence and safety as well as develop relationships with students and staff members.

Mr. Harvey said he believes a police officer’s presence at the school is critical to respond to and prevent security threats.

It would provide “the deterrent of having a police car parked outside the school, a deterrent to any fights at the school. We’ve been sitting for a while without any type of policing at the school,” Mr. Harvey said. “If any place should be safe, it should be the school.”

If the board chooses to move ahead with the proposal, there would be a separate proposition on the ballot in May, when district residents vote on the proposed 2013-14 school budget and Board of Education candidates.

But Mrs. Kirnie said she doesn’t anticipate having a law enforcement presence soon.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions — where to find that person and also how to pay for them,” she said. “I’m looking right now at the possibility of a grant from the (state) Department of Criminal Justice to cover it all or in part, and there are still some unexplored resources through our legislators.”

Because the school serves five municipalities, Mrs. Kirnie said, there also is the possibility of spreading the cost out.

“We have more questions than we have answers,” she said.

Mr. Harvey acknowledged taxpayers are already burdened and the school is in a difficult budget situation, but he suggested it is too important a measure to be ignored because of cost.

“I think this is a good step to see what the people in the community would like to do” to address school security concerns, Mr. Harvey said.

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