With the city set to annex several Daviess County schools, including Apollo High School and Daviess County High School, the chief deputy of the Daviess County Sheriff's Department said officials there are waiting to learn what the annexation will mean for its school resource officer program.
The sheriff's department had school resource officers at both Apollo and DCHS, and those officers handle issues at other county schools. With the two county high schools and other DCPS schools being annexed into Owensboro's city limits, sheriff's department officials do not know if those SROs will remain at the schools after the annexation is complete.
"We have two SROs, and they have come to me asking their status or where they are going to be" when the high schools are annexed, said Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the sheriff's department. "Right now, I can't tell them, because I don't know."
The city and county school district are negotiating details of the annexation, which includes annexing DCHS, Apollo, Burns Middle School, Burns Elementary School, Highland Elementary and the site of the new Daviess County Middle School. The negotiations involve ways to cushion employees in the annexed schools who face increase occupational tax deductions from their checks when they go from the county's occupational tax rate to the city's.
"As far as that negotiation with the city, we aren't a part of that, so we don't know where it's headed," Smith said.
The status of the negotiations, and how security would be provided to the annexed schools, was unclear Friday.
The Owensboro Police Department provides a school resource officer to Owensboro Public Schools. When asked about if OPD would provide officers to Apollo and Daviess County High School, Major Gordon Black, head of support services, said in a statement, "at this point, negotiations are ongoing," and referred any other questions to City Hall.
City Manager Nate Pagan said Friday that school resource officers were "not part of the discussions" between the city and county school district over the annexation. Pagan did not return a call Friday afternoon about the status of the overall negotiation.
In a statement Friday, DCPS Superintendent Matt Robbins said, "We have had ongoing discussions" about school resource officers as part of the overall annexation talks. In a second statement, Robbins said, "I want to assure our families and staff that the safety and security of our students and schools remains a priority as these conversations and negotiations progress."
Lora Wimsatt, public information officer for DCPS, said Robbins had no other comment on the issue beyond the two written statements.
Smith said police and fire protection for the annexed schools would fall to the city. "Because, usually, they'll be the first responders. ... Day to day security and calls for service will be (handled by) OPD," he said.
The county school system has various options for school security, Smith said, including contracting with OPD to provide school resource officers or hiring their own security. DCPS pays a portion of the salary and benefits for the two school resource officers at Apollo and DCHS.
The current county school resource officers could be moved back to patrol duty. "There would have to be additional funds from Fiscal Court to keep those units employed," Smith said, but Fiscal Court is aware that the department needs additional patrol officers.
The department would not retain any SROs to cover any county schools if the officers at Apollo and DCHS are moved back to patrol, Smith said. Schools outside city limits would have calls for service handled by patrol deputies.
"We try to do walk throughs and maintain that presence (in schools) outside regular calls for service, and we'll continue to do that for all county schools in the county," he said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse