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Penn-Trafford High School to have daily police presence

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A school resource officer will be on duty at Penn-Trafford High School five days a week this fall, bumping up from the three-days-a-week police coverage Penn Township provided in recent years.

Township and school district officials are finalizing an agreement regarding how much Penn-Trafford School District will pay toward the township's cost for the position.

The school board in 2009 agreed to pay $33,000 a year for an officer, but officials on both sides of the talks say the cost likely will be closer to $60,000 for the upcoming school year.

Though increasing coverage to five days was a topic before a knife attack injured 21 people at Franklin Regional Senior High School in April, that incident “took us from discussion on how to make this happen to ‘We're going to get this done,'” police Chief John Otto said.

“(Superintendent Matt) Harris and I have both been very committed to the safety of kids in our schools,” Otto said. “We both agree that a full-time (officer) is just the norm right now.”

Under Otto's predecessor, township officials approved having an officer at the school five days a week. But Otto said that arrangement became difficult for Penn Township because an officer costs the township upward of $100,000 for salary and benefits.

Officer David Meyers will continue to work in the school on some of the days, rotating time with another officer who has not been selected yet, Otto said.

Harris praised Meyers' work in 2013 to help to investigate a school bus monitor who is accused of sexually assaulting a special-needs student who lives in the district. That man, James Hopkins, is awaiting a trial scheduled for Sept. 8.

Last week, Meyers charged suspended high school Spanish teacher Michael Garet with stalking and other crimes related to contact with a 17-year-old student.

“To make it five days, it's a no-brainer,” Harris said. “It's best to have a person always on hand, always on scene, always present.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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