BATAVIA – City and school leaders are making plans to place a full-time Batavia police officer on duty at Rotolo Middle School starting as early as this August.
When the Great Recession struck the nation’s economy a decade ago, the city of Batavia was forced to make personnel cutbacks and the school resource officer post at the middle school was one of them.
Now, city and school district officials think the time is right to get a uniformed officer back into the school building.
Police Chief Dan Eul told a committee-level meeting of the Batavia City Council last week that the officer’s responsibility will go well beyond the basic role of providing security in the school building.
“Traditional law enforcement strategy is secondary to the development of relationships with students, faculty and parents in order to support school staff in their effort to create an environment where the students are most likely to thrive and to break down the barriers that exist between law enforcement officers and students in our community,” Eul said.
The police department has maintained a full-time officer at Batavia High School since 1995, Eul said. The program was deemed so successful it was expanded a few years later to include the middle school but was cut when the recession bit into the city’s finances.
Since then, the position was privatized by the district, Eul said.
The return of an officer to the middle school would provide many opportunities for the police department to connect with young people, Eul said.
“It would also create an opportunity to expand our outreach efforts with a different youth demographic unique to the middle school and possibly to the district elementary schools on a part-time basis as well,” Eul said.
Batavia School District 101 Superintendent Lisa Hichens and district Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese appeared before the council committee.
They said that the cost for the position would be based on a formula accounting for the nine-month school year, but on a practical basis essentially would be split evenly between the city and the school district.
Eul said that a federal grant for a school resource officer is available from the U.S. Department of Justice and that the city will apply.
The grant would supply 75 percent of the cost for 36 months, while requiring the position to be maintained for at least six years, Eul said.
City Administrator Laura Newman said that if the position is to be added this year, the council will need to approve a budget amendment.
Members of the council did not need much in the way of convincing.
“It’s really important to have that visibility in the school,” 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff said.
“This provides a positive influence at a very early age,” 3rd Ward Alderman Elliott Meitzler said.
Eul said the position would be filled by assigning an experienced officer to the middle school and hiring a new officer to join the patrol ranks.
With an enrollment of roughly 1,300 and a staff of about 100, Rotolo is one of the largest middle schools in Illinois.