CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Board of Education voted Thursday to put the renewal of the school system’s five-year excess levy before voters in the November General Election.
The excess levy proposes more than $13 million in security enhancements including the hiring of a 12-member armed security force that will cover schools that currently don’t have resource officers.
KCS Executive Director of Safety and Security Keith Vititoe detailed the duties of the security force at Thursday evening’s board meeting.
“They’re protectors,” Vititoe said. “They can certainly be there at the school to ensure public safety but law enforcement officers still have to investigate the crime.”
Vititoe said the security force would blend in with other school staff. They will not wear police-like uniforms or drive marked vehicles.
“If we have somebody who is marked then anybody who passes by the school will be able to see if they’re there or not. If we don’t–and everybody knows that–then there will be that bit of uncertainty and they won’t know if we’re waiting behind the door for them or not. That’s the intent,” Vititoe said.
The school staff would know the security force members, Vititoe said.
There are currently 11 resource officers in Kanawha County schools. The 12-member security force would rotate to cover the other 55 schools, Vititoe said.
“We want them to have the experience of working in all of those different schools and working with those different employees. We also want to move them around so students don’t get use to them,” he said.
According to Vititoe, the security force is not law enforcement and won’t replace law enforcement. They will not make arrests or impose school discipline. They won’t write citations or appear in uniform.
“The bottom line is that they are there to protect the students and staff,” Vititoe said.
Vititoe hopes to hire retired police officers.
The other security measures planned over the five-year excess levy is the construction of security vestibules at 57 school buildings creating a barrier that would keep visitors from entering a door and having access to students.
The excess levy would also finance high-tech detection machines which are considered several steps up from metal detectors. The machines would be located at the county’s high schools.
The school board is floating the renewal of the excess levy earlier than in past years because of a new state law that says levies can only be on the ballot in primary and general elections. Kanawha County voters approved the current levy in November 2018; the current levy will expire in June 2024.