St. Charles County to use $1 million in Covid relief money to add more police in schools

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 3:33 PM CDT
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV) - The St. Charles County Council will plan to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to add school resource officers (SROs) from the county police to elementary schools for the 2022-23 school year.

“It’s the youngest kids who are the most vulnerable who really need a school resource officer the most. We have money available with ARPA funds and I think with that money available this is a great way to spend it,” County Executive Steve Ehlmann said.

One-million-dollars in ARPA funding will be spent to combat violence and in view of the nationwide danger to schools. This plan will allow the county to provide 14 additional officers at no cost to the districts.

“I think it’s worth all the money that you can put towards it is to put more safety measures in place for kids in school,” said St. Charles County mom, Kate Koehly.

Koehly’s 6-year-old son is familiar with gun drills and knows what to do during an active shooter situation.

“It breaks my heart,” says Koehly.

“Under our current contract with the school districts, SROs are in unincorporated area high schools and most middle schools--nine of 23 schools,” said Ehlmann . “With this funding, we are extending our SRO placement to include every school in unincorporated St. Charles County, Augusta Elementary School in the Washington School District, and schools in Dardenne Prairie and Weldon Spring which contract with St. Charles County for police services.”

The St. Charles County’s SRO program started during the 1995-96 school year. Since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, school shootings have been on the rise. The latest shooting was in May at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tx.

“People understand given what’s recently occurred in Texas how vulnerable some of our elementary schools are. Nobody really thought that you would have young kids bringing guns to school,” Ehlmann said.

“It makes me feel really good. It makes me feel a little bit safer for my kids, said Koehly. “It’s been hard the past few years in general and the school shootings are very scary.”

Ongoing police staffing shortages poses a challenge to hire the additional 14 resource officer positions. The county executive hopes retired officers help fill the vacancies.

“The money is there to spend. The key and the real challenge is to recruit the people and train them in the next 2 months,” said Ehlmann.

The news SROs will begin in September.