By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
SHARPSVILLE, WEST MIDDLESEX —
Sharpsville and West Middlesex area school boards are boosting security in their buildings for 2013-14.
Both schools will add a part-time, armed officer to their payroll at an hourly rate minus benefits.
Sharpsville schools will fork out a little over $20,000 to increase police presence to eight hours a day.
“We do have money in the budget,” said outgoing Superintendent Mark Ferrara. “There is a line item to increase services through the day.”
Schools in Mercer County and across the country reconsidered their security plans when a gunman took the lives of 20 elementary school students in Connecticut in December.
At the end of January, policemen started patrols inside and outside of the three Sharpsville buildings for three hours a day.
Keith Falasco, Sharpsville police chief, met with borough and school officials Tuesday to hash out a plan to provide their kids with as much protection as possible at a low cost to the district.
“We’re hiring a part-time officer anyway, so we’re looking at hiring two now,” Falasco said.
The plan is to use multiple part-time officers to cover the 40 hours per week, instead of using full-time staff, so it costs the school less, according to Falasco.
With the start of school drawing near, West Middlesex school officials are also reviewing the police presence in their buildings.
At their meeting Monday, board members voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of acting Superintendent Lawrence Connelly to create a part-time security position for the coming school year.
Connelly guessed the position will pay about $12 an hour, but the board will nail down a final plan in the near future.
Dan Oster, a retired Southwest Mercer County Regional policeman, will continue as the full-time, armed resource officer at the high school; the part-time armed officer will patrol the elementary buildings.
“The Newtown tragedy and added coverage for the elementary schools,” is the reason for the increased security, Connelly said, adding that “times have changed.”