(Update at 11:20 a.m.) The presence of an armed police officer at Deerfield High School is being considered but not yet a certainty, according to sources from Township High School District 113 and the Village of Deerfield.
As reported on Patch in November, the Village and officials from the District have been talking about putting a community resource officer at Deerfield High School on a full time basis but nothing has been decided.
Both Deerfield Assistant Village Manager Andrew Lichterman and District 113 Communications Director Natalie Kaplan said no final decision has been made.
Deerfield would hire an officer who would be assigned to full time duty at the school, according to Lichterman. The cost would be shared by the Village and the District. Highland Park High School has had a community resource officer since 2000.
(Earlier, at 5 a.m.) District 113 officials plan to spend an additional $400,000 to enhance security at Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools in the next few months.
Changes include enhancing the vestibules at both high schools to slow down the speed at which people enter the school buildings and allow for administrators to get a look at those coming in, according to the District 113 Board Member Bonnie Shlensky. She explained that currently a visitor is checked into the high school already after they've entered it. She said the vestibules would be more controlled.
"They'll know who you are before you're allowed to come in," Shlensky said.
An armed police officer will be posted at Deerfield High School by July 1, Superintendent George Fornero told the Chicago Tribune. Highland Park High School has had one in place since 2000, a year after the Columbine shooting. However, the addition is less intended to improve external security than it is to be a resource for students in the schools, according to Shlensky.
"It brings an awareness to the kids that there is someone in the building," Shlensky said. "It's a big link between the school community and the larger community."
Called a school resource officer, the position entails investigating any crimes committed at the school as well as providing support and direction for students and identifying potential problems to prevent them from escalating, according to Highland Park Police Deputy Chief of Support Services George Pfutzenreuter.
"They report for duty here in the morning but they spend their whole day at the school," Pfutzenreuter said. "We recognize that the school is its own community during the day."
These changes are part of the Master Plan that was recently approved by the board. They were originally slated to be incorporated into the referendum that the board recently approved putting on the April ballot. However, the board wanted to begin the security work this year.
"We're pushing that ahead a year," Shlensky said.
The school board member stressed that these improvements are not a reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting, but a part of an ongoing effort to make District 113's schools safer.
"This isn't a knee jerk reaction to what happened," Shlensky said. "We've always put security and safety in the forefront."