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West Prairie to add school resource officer

Rich Egger
Sheriff Nick Petitgout (left) and Superintendent Guy Gradert are working out the final details to add a school resource officer to the West Prairie School District.

The school district and the McDonough County Sheriff’s Department are finalizing an agreement for the position.

Superintendent Guy Gradert said the SRO will work with the school psychologist and the district’s three social workers to ensure a safe, healthy environment.

“When kids feel secure and they don’t have anxiety around them, they can learn a lot better,” he said.

“And sometimes kids fear coming to school for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the news they saw the night before but maybe having that SRO there now is going to give some kids and especially their families some assurance about their safety at school.”

Gradert said physical altercations have not been a problem in the district, but cyberbullying and mental health issues are concerns.

West Prairie has never had an SRO, but Gradert said he talked with school board members, his administrative team, community members, and the sheriff before deciding the district should add one.

“It was time to do it,” Gradert said.

West Prairie encompasses more than 250 square miles, so Sheriff Nick Petitgout supports having a deputy stationed in the district.

“This is just going to be another tool for us to have on the west side of the county and the north side of the county, and having a permanent fixture over there is going to be great for us in responding to calls and anything needed at the schools,” Petitgout said.

“I think the team approach is what’s really going to be beneficial to us and the school district.”

The sheriff said no one on his staff is currently trained to serve as an SRO, so whichever deputy is chosen for the position will need to take the three-day SRO training program required by the state.

Petitgout said the annual cost for the position will be around $80,000. The two entities will split that cost.

Classes in the West Prairie district begin on Wednesday, August 17.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.