Efforts continue to hire, train safety officers to be placed in every WV school

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State education officials say it will cost an estimated $34 million to place a police officer in each school in West Virginia.

Jonah Adkins

“With roughly 700 schools and 170 of those schools having a full-time officer, the cost to have an officer in each school would be roughly $34,450,000,” Jonah Adkins, director of PK-12 Academic Support at the state Department of Education, told the state Board of Education last week.

The officers would come from local law enforcement agencies, Adkins said.

“Each county board of education has agreements with either their county sheriff or local municipality regarding the funding of these positions. One county, for instance, they provide a flat reimbursement of $40,000 to that department to help cover the cost of that officer,” he explained.

Adkins said the next hurdle would be hiring enough officers, including current vacancies, and getting them trained to do the job.

“We are full support of having an officer in each school,” he said. “Obviously, there’s costs associated with that and then the other barrier is finding the appropriate personnel.”

State Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Rob Cunningham said the number of officers needed is in the “hundreds.”

The timeline to get those officers trained is currently unknown. Training will need to occur at the state Police Academy in Institute for three months.

“You’re looking at an additional three months for that training and those cadet classes only start at certain times throughout the year. They do two cadet classes each year, so the logistics of getting them hired and getting them into the quickest occurring cadet class will be the hurdle for that,” Adkins said.

Since the start of the year, school safety officers have visited more than 500 schools, made dozens of visits to county board of education offices and contacted school resource and prevention resources officers to investigate school safety concerns.

Last year, Gov. Jim Justice launched a statewide school safety plan to focusing broadly on three areas including detection and prevention; response during a crisis; and post-crisis response.

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