Cost cited as reason for pulling police officer from Gateway Middle School
The only police officer stationed at Gateway Middle School could be reassigned as a patrol officer by the end of this school year.
Gateway School District officials informed parents of the potential loss on April 14, less than a week after 21 people were injured in a knife attack at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville.
Neither Monroeville nor the Gateway school system can afford to pay for the officer at the middle school next school year, said Cara Zanella, a district spokeswoman and school safety and security adviser.
The cost to station a police officer at the high school is about $150,000, which is split between the municipality and school district, Zanella said.
Three security guards are stationed at Gateway High School, and one is at Gateway Middle School, she said.
Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole said the municipal budget this year isn't large enough to include an officer at the middle school on a full-time basis.
An officer has been stationed at the middle school since January, and Monroeville has covered the full cost to do so. Cole said municipal officials might consider splitting the cost of the officer with the school district.
“We're very concerned about our schools and we do everything we can to protect them,” Cole said, “but budget constraints are budget constraints.”
A 2014 budget drafted by municipal Manager Tim Little and unanimously approved by council in March includes 46 police officers. The department budgeted for 50 officers last year.
A proposed 2014 budget introduced last year by former Manager Lynette McKinney included 48 officers and a balanced budget without a tax increase. Council tabled that budget until a new majority started their terms in January.
Gateway School Director Skip Drumheller said Monroeville officials should pay for the school resource officer, because they blundered on what could have been a larger police department.
“The municipality had an opportunity in December to pass a budget that was balanced, without a tax increase, no cut in services and five new police officers ... and now we're faced with a budget with a huge tax increase and fewer police officers,” Drumheller said.
School officials this week discussed additional security measures that included an updated evacuation plan.
They did not discuss installing metal detectors.
“We don't have gang activity, luckily, or any of that kind of stuff,” Zanella said. “Most experts believe that (a metal detector) doesn't really deter situations that are happening.”
From 2005 to 2013, enrollment in Gateway schools declined from 4,304 to 3,503, according to district records.
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.