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Leechburg may have armed patrols in schools in the fall

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 12:33 a.m.

A retired police officer could be patrolling the halls of Leechburg Area schools in the 2013-14 year. The officer would carry a gun.

Superintendent James Budzilek said administrators are recommending the hiring as the best and most cost-effective way to increase security at the district's K-12 facilities in Leechburg.

The board is expected to vote on the plan next week.

Leechburg Area would be following in the steps of Butler Area and South Butler school districts.

Days after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. in December, those districts got court permission for retired state troopers already patrolling school grounds to carry firearms.

Hiring a retired officer would cost Leechburg Area about $25,000 a year, Budzilek said.

“This is a deterrent. This is not going to solve all of our issues,” Budzilek told the school board Wednesday. “This would be a very strong deterrent.”

Budzilek said administrators considered a school resource officer with Leechburg police, and looked at the arrangement the Apollo-Ridge School District has for one with Kiski Township police.

Hiring a retired officer was preferred because it would cost less, and the district would have more flexibility with the person's scheduling and duties, Budzilek said.

Although Budzilek referred only to hiring a retired state police officer, he agreed with board member Anthony Shea that military veterans could also be considered.

In addition to security, Director Brian Ravotti said having the person present could cut down on vandalism by making students think twice before engaging in mischief.

Changes are also being considered to improve security at the district's elementary school.

Administrators are recommending building an office in the school's existing lobby. Additional doors would be installed to control access to the school.

The project could cost between $25,000 and $60,000, depending upon if the district seeks bids for a contractor to do the work or has its own employees do it, Budzilek said.

Budzilek said he'd like to see the work done before the start of the 2013-14 year.

In other business

• Changes are being proposed for money left to the district by a former teacher.

According to Business Manager Mark Lukacs, Ann Dobradenka, a second grade teacher, left the district $2,500 in her will in 1962, with the interest to be used for buying supplies for the elementary school library.

But with interest earnings so low, the fund has not been producing enough money to buy anything, Lukacs said.

The proposed change would be to give a portion of the principal, $200 to $250, to the librarian each year to buy items students need until the money is exhausted.

The school board is expected to vote on approving the change next week.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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