Security is on the rise at Chartiers Valley

The plan at this point is to install one officer at the high school and connecting middle school, and another officer at the primary school to help with building security and other issues.

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Collier commissioners have assured inquiring residents that they are working with the Chartiers Valley School District on an agreement that would result in the hiring of two school resource officers to help with building security and other issues.

The officers will be armed, according to Collier manager Sal Sirabella.

The plan at this point is to install one officer at the high school and connecting middle school and another officer at the primary school, all of which are in Collier. Scott, where the district's intermediate school and administrative offices are located, has agreed to provide a school resource officer for that building.

But some residents, including three who are married to police officers, urged officials at the Jan. 9 meeting to move more quickly.

"We need to put forth our best effort. These are our children. They are irreplaceable," said Karen Halbleib of Rennerdale, who added that the money the township is spending to develop a major new park "won't do any good if our children aren't protected."

Heather Oberle, also of Rennerdale, pointed out that there is often a four- to five-minute delay before police get a message from a 911 operator.

"An SRO will change that," she said.

Susan Stoker of Kirwan Heights said the use of SROs in schools demonstrates to students that police are regular people who are "friendly and approachable." Such employees may also be able assist students with drug and weapons problems, she said.

Mrs. Stoker wondered how often Collier officers have been called to schools in the township. Police Chief Thomas Devin said officers responded to the three Chartiers Valley schools in Collier 11 times in December. That number does not include regular patrols from the 14-member force.

Commission President Robert Schuler, who noted officials have met with Chartiers Valley officials, said, "We're very concerned [about this issue]."

But hiring more police also involves civil service procedures, which can take 4-6 months in part because of mandatory background checks.

Scott, which plans to install an officer at the intermediate school on Feb. 1, will use an experienced policeman while a new hire is being trained. Mr. Schuler said Collier would aim for that same deadline.

Commissioner Timothy Young, who said the township last year offered the school district "a deal" only to learn that it recently offered Scott more money, said officials need to get this straightened out.

"What today's kids have to survive is much different from what we did," said Beth Eckenrode of Woodhall Court, a member of the Task Force for Academic Excellence, adding that "the district is willing to fund the entire bill."

Still, the issue is complex because SROs would be township employees, which brings up issues like health care, pensions and summertime employment when school is out.

Some officials have suggested hiring retired state troopers.

education - neigh_west - neigh_south

Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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