WENTZVILLE, Mo. - A pair of aldermen in Wentzville want to make sure every public-school building in their city has an armed police officer on duty.
The idea seems like common sense to some, but it won't be cheap.
The Wentzville R-IV School District has 18 buildings. 10 of them are in the city of Wentzville. Right now, only six have a full-time school resource officer. The other four share officers. A plan by Aldermen Matt Swanson and Bryan Harr could put an officer at all ten.
“We’ve had SROs in high schools for around a decade because that’s where a lot of the problems came from,” said Swanson, who is also a school teacher. “But we’ve been seeing these things happening more often at middle and elementary schools. We need to value all the lives of people in our schools equally.”
“We know it's not the end-all-be-all solution. But it is the first step,” said Harr. “If that evil comes knocking on the door of that school we know that officer's going to be there.”
Harr is a first-term alderman and a veteran police officer. Safety is always on his mind. His son is also a student at Stone Creek Elementary, making the plan both personal and professional.
“If you get right down to it everyone wants their kids to be safe. I know I do.”
Both Aldermen told 5 On Your Side they’ve heard too much talk and haven’t seen enough action in the wake of recent school shootings.
“Action is needed. We’re going to lead the way on this and I think a lot of other communities are going to follow our lead,” said Swanson.
According to Wentzville Mayor Nick Guccione, that action could come at an estimated cost of around $400,000.
Guccione believes the city has the money to add the extra officers.
“I’ll work to move funds around to make it happen,” said Guccione.
He said the money could come out of what is essentially the city’s rainy-day fund. He warns, however, moving money around could lead to a reduction in some city services.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that,” said Guccione.
Harr and Swanson said they believe the plan can work without raising taxes.
Michelle Neuf's son, Carson is in first grade at Stone Creek Elementary. For her, bringing Carson home from school is always a relief.
“I worry every day. Especially in the past few months it's been a little worse,” said Neuf.
Neuf supports the idea of an officer in every building, whatever the cost.
“The children always come first. Their safety’s always the main priority.”
Wentzville's superintendent is also on board with the idea. Dr. Curtis Cain knows the plan would cost money but said the safety of the children under his supervision is worth it.
“Cost is just that, a finite detail,” said Cain. “Do we have to look at that and consider it? Yes. But it can't be a detriment to overall safety.”
Under the current model, the school district pays a portion of the costs for school resource officers. Financial arrangements for Harr and Swanson’s plan have yet to be worked out.
Cain said making the plan a reality will take cooperation between the Wentzville School Board, the Board of Alderman and the police department. He’s optimistic the various groups will reach an agreement.