First Selectman Stephen J. Vavrek expects to meet with representatives from the offices of three federal legislators next week in an attempt to secure federal grants to pay for putting police officers at all Monroe schools.
The meeting will take place in conjunction with Newtown officials, who also are seeking funding to accomplish the same thing at the schools in their town. “We’d like to work together as a team on this,” Vavrek said of Monroe and Newtown.
Monroe currently has school resource officers (SROs) — who are police officers — assigned to Masuk High School and Jockey Hollow Middle School. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, police officers also have been stationed at the town’s three elementary schools — Fawn Hollow, Monroe and Stepney — as well as the Chalk Hill building (now Sandy Hook Elementary) but it’s uncertain how long that can continue without outside funding.
Want officers at 14 schools in Newtown and Monroe
Vavrek said he and Newtown officials are hoping to get federal funds to pay for putting SROs at seven schools in each of the towns. In the case of Monroe, that would be Masuk High, Jockey Hollow, Fawn Hollow, Monroe El, Stepney El, Chalk Hill/Sandy Hook, and St. Jude School (a parochial facility that serves pre-kindergarten to eighth grade students).
The Chalk Hill building was transformed back into a school in a matter of a few weeks after the shooting to become the new home of Sandy Hook Elementary, and likely will continue serving the Newtown students for at least another year and a half, if not longer.
On Dec. 14, a gunman murdered 20 first-grade students and six adult educators before killing himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The gunman also killed his mother in their Newtown home on the same day.
Monroe offered use of Chalk Hill to Newtown at no cost, although the improvements being made to the building should eventually benefit Monroe when it gets the building back. Chalk Hill had not been used as a school since June 2011, but was being used by the town for some other municipal functions.
Special circumstances in the two towns
Vavrek said while he realizes many communities may be looking to find ways to pay for a police presence at schools, federal officials should understand the special circumstances in Newtown, where the shooting took place, and Monroe, where the Sandy Hook Elementary students now attend classes.
“It happened to us, and our national people are on board with that,” he said. “Connecticut right now is the focus.”
His meeting will involve people from the offices of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (who represents Newtown), and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (who represents Monroe).
How much does it cost to put police at a school?
How much it cost for an SRO per school is hard to determine, although a general figure of $80,000 has frequently been used in media reports around the country. “I won’t speculate on that number,” Vavrek said.
But he said whatever the cost, Monroe — as well as Newtown — likely will need some help. “That money has to come from somewhere,” Vavrek said.
School resource officers don’t simply serve as armed security at schools, but become part of the school environment and work closely with staff and try to form trusting relationships with students.