HEWITT, Texas (KWTX) Students going to school for the first time this fall, may be meeting a fresh face besides their new teacher if they join Midway Independent School District.
(Photo by Matthew Ablon)
In response to school violence across the country, Midway ISD is looking to expand its School Resource Officer program by contracting an additional officer through the Hewitt Police Department.
"Based on the things that are happening nationally and close to home there in Santa Fe, it's time that we start to add some additional resources to that team,” said Hewitt police Chief Jim Devlin.
The current team consists of four student resource officers; two Hewitt police officers and two officers with the Woodway Public Safety Department, who cover Midway High School and middle/intermediate schools and ‘float’ to the elementary schools when they have time.
The fifth officer would likely be designated to serve to the district’s elementary schools.
"Look at how it is now, I mean, what's it going hurt to have extra (police)?" said Midway ISD parent Krystal Ramirez. "I'd feel more secure to tell you the truth.”
A correctional officer, Ramirez has a son entering Pre-K in the fall and says she has experienced the impacts of police presence first-hand.
“With my little boy going - I'm nervous, I'm very nervous because he's only four-years-old and I want him to feel like he has somebody to go to, and with me being in the profession I am, I tell him 'these are the people that you go to,’” said Ramirez.
Devlin said students ‘going to’ his officers, has thwarted many potentially dangerous situations.
"There's stuff that happens every day that these officers take care of, we may not just put it out on media or social media, but they're there, and they're making a huge difference,” said Devlin.
One parent said she wasn’t sure how much of a difference one officer would make being spread between at least six elementary campuses.
"Is one officer going to be enough or going to be able to be in the right place at the right time?” asked Amber Jaime. “Especially if it’s just one between the elementary campuses - they’re so far spread out.”
The Midway ISD mother works as a teacher in another local school district, and says sometimes police can be intimidating to younger children, and she suggests the money may be better spent on metal detectors.
"I definitely wouldn't want to be somebody carrying a gun on a campus, especially an elementary campus, I don't think that's the answer,” said Jaime. “They’re (elementary students) leaning towards Nerf guns…hopefully.”
Devlin said SRO’s are ‘specialty’ officers who receive extra training and have to have a certain demeanor because the student-officer relationship is entirely different than the criminal-officer exchange.
District officials said they contracted with Hewitt PD for additional police support earlier this spring, and now they’re looking to make it permanent.
“We are definitely appreciative of Hewitt PD’s impact already, and the opportunity to add an additional full time officer can only increase our school safety efforts,” said Traci Marlin, Public Information Officer for Midway ISD.
The district recently announced five campuses would be getting security upgrades this summer by installing bullet resistant doors and new classroom locks to control access.
While opinions differ, parents, police, and district officials agreed: something needs to change.
"After every incident we have in one of these school shootings, we learn more and more about how to better protect ourselves, and that's what we're doing,” said Devlin.
The SRO program expansion has been approved by the Midway ISD School Board but still requires approval from the Hewitt City Council before becoming official.
Devlin said, if granted, he had several officers interested in the position.