Johnson County schools boost SROs, safety tech with grant funding | #schoolsaftey

Johnson County schools will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grant money to fund their school resource officer programs and advanced security technology this year.

The money comes from the Indiana Secured School Safety Grants for Fiscal Year 2023. The grant requires a 50/50 match, so districts will equally match the money provided by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. The Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant and Franklin school districts received the maximum grant award, $100,000. Greenwood schools received $80,829, Indian Creek $79,600 and Central Nine Career Center $34,500, according to IDHS data.

New technology

The money Center Grove was awarded will purchase gun-detection software, said Bill Long, assistant superintendent of operations.

“We plan to purchase ZeroEyes – Artificial Intelligence gun detection technology that can be implemented using our existing cameras,” Long said in an email. “It will improve safety by alerting authorities in less than five seconds if a gun is detected on one of our cameras.”

ZeroEyes, founded in 2018 by a team of former Navy SEALs and technology experts, has contracts with FedEx, Subaru, and Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, among other entities, according to the company’s website.

Clark-Pleasant will also use some of the district’s grant money to fund safety technology upgrades, while the rest will be used to pay school resource officers, said Chad Pryce, Clark-Pleasant schools police chief.

While the district has used money from a property tax referendum to fund other safety upgrades, this will be the first time administrators use money from the school safety grant to fund technology, he said.

“We have some cameras and servers we will try and upgrade to improve the overall safety of all of our campuses,” Pryce said. “Technology is constantly changing and upgrading and getting better and the overall picture quality and the storage ability of cameras themselves have come a long way in a short amount of time. We’re just upgrading the integral system of the overall system, we’re not replacing all of it.”

Along with paying for school resource officers, Indian Creek will use some of the money to fund an active event warning system that can allow first responders to respond quickly if there is an active threat on campus, said Andrea Perry, assistant superintendent.

“The funding allows us to make a selection for an appropriate vendor that can provide the active warning alert for our campus,” she said. “It improves the response time with the active alert system and an increased sense of security throughout campus.”

School resource officers

Most county school districts will use at least some of their funding for existing school resource officer programs.

The Franklin schools grant will fund a portion of the salaries of existing SROs, splitting costs with officers’ home departments. Franklin schools partners with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and the Franklin Police Department for its SRO program, which has six officers, said Robin Betts, district spokesperson.

“While our SROs are primarily responsible for our safety and security, the positive relationships they develop with our students and staff are essential,” she said in an email. “It is not uncommon to see our SROs reading to a classroom of students, greeting them as they enter the building each morning or cheering them on at a sporting event.”

Greenwood schools will use the grant to increase the number of SROs serving the school district, said Terry Terhune, superintendent.

“We’ll have two people here all the time and for three to four days a week, we’ll have a third officer,” he said. “Before this year we had one to two officers a day based on availability and funding. This year we have greater coverage with our SROs.”

Central Nine Career Center will use its grant to fund one SRO position, which it’s had for about five years through the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, said Mike Quaranta, assistant director.

“It provides extra security on our campus grounds and really in the greater community he’s kind of fostered a healthy, respectable, caring and safe environment. He works on developing relationships with staff, students and other school resource officers in our (career and technical education) district,” he said.

Indian Creek schools will fund its rotation of five to six SROs, with one on campus at all times, Perry said.

“They’re available to be in all four buildings throughout the day, inside or outside,” she said. “They’re in the cafeterias with students, in the hallways, outside of our buildings especially in high-traffic times (such as) arrival and dismissal.”

Clark-Pleasant schools will use part of its grant to pay hourly rates for a rotation of 14 SROs, eight of whom are working at the schools at a time, Pryce said.

“We have officers from Whiteland, New Whiteland and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, that’s the majority of them,” he said. “I think it shows the cohesiveness of the community around us. It brings a huge experience level and allows guys who work in neighboring agencies to have the community policing piece with families, students and staff.”

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