BETHEL TWP. — At their meeting Monday night, the Bethel Local Schools board of education took steps towards permitting armed staff members in the schools.
The district also hosted a community forum directly after the meeting, where members of the board discussed topics including the building project, contract negotiations with the Bethel Education Association, security and district finances, and took questions from residents.
Board president Scott Hawthorn said that this resolution does not make immediate changes to school policy, but is a step toward permitting the district to grant written permission for staff members to be armed on campus.
The board voted unanimously to permit armed staff in the school safety zone. According to Hawthorn, the board is considering this step due to the length of response times from the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the cost to contract with a school resource officer.
“There’s no one answer to this problem,” he said.
The district is implementing ALICE active shooter response training, but Hawthorn said allowing approved volunteer staff members to be armed in the schools would be another layer of security.
During the public forum, Hawthorn discussed the decision further, saying that the district has looked into resuming a contract with the sheriff’s office for a SRO. The district discontinued that service in 2011 as part of a series of reductions in spending.
Hawthorn said that the cost to the district for a full-time SRO would be about $60,000 per year. He added that response times from the sheriff’s office are between 5 and 10 minutes.
In other business, Superintendent Virginia Potter gave a report on the first two weeks of school in the new building. She told the board that the hallway traffic problems in the old building have been resolved by the new addition’s locker bays and wider hallways. She also noted that the new cafeteria is much less crowded and that the lunch lines move much faster, so students have more time to eat. Potter also reported that so far, the windows between classrooms and hallways have not presented a distraction for students.
For a more in-depth account of the discussion during the open forum, check the Troy Daily News website Tuesday.