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Grandview elementary in Tarentum will have security (just not a police officer)

| Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, 5:27 p.m.
Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum as seen on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum as seen on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

Grandview Upper Elementary Center will have a security presence in the coming academic year, although it may not be a Tarentum police officer, school officials said.

Highlands School District Superintendent Michael Bjalobok and school board President Debbie Beale made that clear after a board discussion Monday night.

When asked whether the district was committed to a security presence, Bjalobok replied, “Absolutely.”

For the past two years, Officer Kurt Jendrezjewski has been stationed at the school, which houses grades 3, 4 and 5 and the Pre-K Counts program.

Joint financing from the borough and school district, with help from a state grant to the borough, funded the program.

But borough officials said last week they haven't received $90,000 the state promised for the program. Of that total, $60,000 was to be for the previous school year and $30,000 was earmarked for the upcoming year.

With no money available locally, Tarentum police Chief Bill Vakulick recommended suspending the security program at Grandview.

The school board's security and safety committee is to determine how the district will provide security for the building.

Committee chairman Kerry Myers said his group will meet Thursday to review options.

Grandview, the largest of the district's three elementary buildings, was the only one to have an in-school officer.

Last year, the district hired its own police officer, Richard Pritchard, a retired Pittsburgh policeman. Although he serves all of the schools, Highlands High School in Harrison and the middle school two blocks away command much of Pritchard's attention.

In addition, the district has a contract with a private security firm that supplies five security guards.

Bjalobok said likely options the committee will examine include posting one of the security guards at Grandview or hiring one or two part-time police officers who would be stationed at the school and be under Pritchard's supervision.

Vakulick said the program didn't start as a result of problems at Grandview. Rather, he and school officials saw it as a way to reduce or prevent problems, such as bullying, and to establish a rapport between students and the officer to foster a respect for law enforcement.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.

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