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Schools, sheriff seek partnership

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

Under a new partnership proposed by the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, the school district could have two additional officers in the fall.

“Three would be much more comprehensive in terms of just being able to meet the needs of the schools in a more efficient manner,” said Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes. “It’s difficult for one person to be at 11 different sites.”

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Carson City School Board, Sheriff Ken Furlong outlined a grant being offered through the Community Oriented Policing Services. The grant will fund up to $125,000 per officer position during a three-year period.

The school district and the city would need to match about $300,000 over those three years then commit to retaining those positions for at least a year after the grant expires.

“The underlying issue is school violence,” Furlong said. “We can’t imagine school violence as we’ve seen across the country. It’s time this community takes a very, very hard look at what we want the security of our schools to be placed at. In my opinion, the school resource officer program is the best option for this community.”

Deputy Jessica Rivera serves as the sole officer in the school district, concentrating most of the time and effort at Carson High School, where her office is located. If there is an incident at another school, she said, she is notified by dispatch. If Rivera is busy, the call goes out to a patrol officer.

“I can only get somewhere so fast, and I can get there fast,” she said. “But if someone is already there, it’s that much better.”

If the grant is received, it is likely an officer would be stationed at each middle school, with those officers also overseeing the nearby elementary schools. Furlong said the officers would be handpicked with an emphasis being placed on education rather than enforcement.

“It’s not about arresting more kids,” he said. “It’s the opposite.”

He said the officers will work with school officials to keep students in school.

“Here’s my goal, I want to get students in their seats in the classrooms,” Furlong said. “If they are in their seats in their classrooms, they’re making progress toward the goal of graduation and they become less of a threat to our environment. It’s when they fall out, become disenfranchised, the threat level increases.”

Stokes said increasing officers supplements the work being done to make the buildings more secure with single points of entry and other safety measures.

“I think it’s important that we have a strong showing of police officers, unfortunately it’s the world we live in right now,” Stokes said. “Having a patrol car and sheriff’s resource officer I think helps to dissuade people who may be contemplating causing damage or injury at one of our schools.”

Furlong will present the proposal to apply for the grant to the Carson City Supervisors during their meeting, which begins 8:30 a.m. Thursday. If the department is awarded the grant, the city and school district would split the cost. Both entities would be responsible for $32,600 the first year, $50,000 the second year and $83,300 the third year.

Lynnette Conrad, president of the Carson City School Board, said she was somewhat uncomfortable with the cost as the budget is being cut.

“It does make me a little nervous putting money into security while we’re taking money away from teaching,” she said.

Stokes said he thought the community would support the decision.

“I don’t think you can put a price on peace of mind,” Stokes said. “All of us want our students and staff to be safe.”