YORKVILLE – Yorkville School District 115 officials are exploring the possibility of adding more armed security personnel to help monitor school grounds within the district.
The topic was discussed during one of the district's school board committee meetings on Monday, Aug. 5 at the district's Center for Innovation, 604B Center Parkway.
Yorkville School District 115 Superintendent Tim Shimp said the idea is for the district to start off by hiring two supervisors for the district's proposed safe schools security program. He said those full-time supervisors, who would also be armed, would help develop the program of officers who would mostly help facilitate security supervision and help with drills at schools with grades kindergarten through eighth grades.
“We want students to physically and mentally feel safe in school and parents to have confidence that, when the kids are dropped off at the school’s doors, we have measures in place to prevent a horrific incident from happening," Shimp said.
Shimp said these officers for the proposed security program could be retired police officers. He said they could also be current officers that are looking for extra work during off days from the police department.
Shimp said there is currently one student resource officer, or SRO, on staff within the district who is primarily at Yorkville High School but sometimes goes to the elementary, grade and middle schools when needed. He said he would love to hire another SRO for the district and they're a wealth of information, but he believes there could be a significant difference in cost with these proposed officer positions not including benefits, and the proposed security officers would be a more effective use of security officers that are qualified to be armed across schools.
Shimp said the purpose of the program is also to give mental security and peace of mind for students. He said he also wants to help build relationships between students and law enforcement.
Dr. Robert Brenart, vice-president of the school board, said that it affects learning for kids and creates anxiety for them knowing that a mass shooting could happen anywhere, including school. He said he thinks board and district officials should continue to think about how to go about this and to keep moving forward on looking at ways to help that situation.
“I’m not against the idea at all,” Brenart said.
Gary Katula, member of the school board, said he agreed that the whole point of the proposal is to try to make people feel secure.
"That's the meat and potatoes of it," Katula said.
Shimp said the idea for the program wasn't spearheaded by any one incident in particular, but it’s still horrible whenever they do happen and reminds everyone how vulnerable they are to attacks like those, no matter where they go.
“But I still believe school is one of the safest places that kids could be,” Shimp said.
Shimp said the next steps include meeting with the soon-to-be new Yorkville police chief to work out draft contracts for the hourly positions and to bring job descriptions to the school board by their Aug. 19 meeting. Ideally, he said, the supervisors would be hired by next month, but he wants to not rush this and to make sure everything about this proposal is carefully thought through.
In the meantime, Shimp said, school officials will continue with run, hide and fight active shooter response training at the schools. He said district officials will also continue to monitor school building entryways, safety and security technology, and will continue to closely monitor visitors who come into the schools.
“We're doing what we can to minimize any potential incident,” Shimp said.