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Monessen to increase security at elementary center

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Beginning next week, the Monessen Elementary Center will have an armed police officer guarding its site every day during school hours.

At Tuesday's work session, the school board said it plans to approve the hiring of two part-time officers at its Jan. 15 regular meeting. Superintendant Linda Marcolini said she expects the officers to start the very next day.

It was a case of better-late-than-never for Marcolini and the board.

“Our goal was to have these (officers) in place by Jan. 3, but we ran into the Christmas break,” Marcolini said.

Marcolini said she interviewed four applicants – all currently employed as part-time law enforcement officers in the Mid-Mon Valley.

“Our main focus is for the security of the staff and students,” Marcolini said. “One of the requirements is for the officers to be personable and able to interact with students and visitors.”

The two officers will alternate between working three and two days per week. The district will attempt to keep the other two applicants on-call in case of illness or an extracurricular function where they would be needed “depending on their schedule,” she said.

“When we say part-time, we don't want people to think there won't be someone here all the time,” Marcolini said. “Budget-wise, this was the most cost-effective way to do this and not have to deal with benefits.”

The officers will have walkie-talkies and keep in touch with Principal Bethanne Natali while performing “sweeps” of the perimeter and checking that classroom doors remain locked. They will also answer to security director John Bachinski, who is stationed at the high school.

Marcolini said the focus at the elementary center is at the main entrance. The staff on Jan. 2 underwent training on how to operate the entranceway metal detectors, conduct bag searches and use hand-held metal-detecting wands.

Marcolini said the district might consider hire a full-time officer next year, budget permitting.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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