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Nell Holcomb may add school resource officer

Nell Holcomb R-4 School District is currently in talks with the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s office to add a full-time school resource officer (SRO) to Nell Holcomb. If approved, the school district would pay 75 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits, with the county covering the rest.

Superintendent Darryl Pannier said having an officer there full-time would help Nell Holcomb be more secure. He added that the officer could act as the safety coordinator for the district, helping with various intruder and natural disaster drills.

“It gives us another tool,” Pannier said. “We’re out here on an island all by ourselves, so to speak, and it just gives us added security all the way around.”

Pannier said the discussions began by talking to their current SRO, Cody Windbigler. Windbigler travels between all schools in the county not in the City of Cape Girardeau or part of Jackson R-2 School District. Windbigler also provides the county’s active shooter program, making his time at Nell Holcomb limited.

“As news reports of school shootings have ramped up, we decided to kind of take it a step further,” Pannier said. “Instead of just talking about it, we started getting into more discussions with the sheriff’s department.”

Captain Ruth Ann Dickerson spoke in front of the Cape Girardeau County Commissioners on May 17 about the idea, and the commission was supportive of the agreement and allowed further discussions to continue.

The Nell Holcomb School Board will discuss the matter at its board meeting next week. Pannier said the board has been supportive of adding the full-time officer, but needs to look closer at its financial situation before finalizing the agreement.

“We’re hoping to move forward,” Pannier said. “If we hit a bump along the way, then we may have to set it back a little bit, but we’re still going to work toward it.”

Pannier said that in a perfect world, the officer would start in August and be at the school full-time for the school year. In the summer and during winter break, the officer would be utilized by the sheriff’s department elsewhere.

The officer would be fully certified by the department and would be under the supervision of the patrol division. The county would provide standard equipment for the officer, but the school district would be in charge of providing any additional communication devices they want the officer to have.

Dickerson said the officer would work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., to mirror Nell Holcomb’s school hours of 7:55 a.m. to 3 p.m. The officer would not work when school is off for holidays the county doesn’t recognize, but would use those banked hours to work during extracurricular activities.

The sheriff’s department would pay the officer, and the school district would reimburse the county for its 75 percent of salary and benefits.

Dickerson said the county is asking the school district for a three-year commitment to attract experienced officers to the position. She added that the agreement would be looked at after a year to see if any changes need to be made.

“We don’t have enough officers to do this with any other schools, but we would like to do this on a trial period with the county’s agreement,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson added that SROs have become a big topic for schools and this process should help the county in the future if other schools ask for similar arrangements.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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