Cambridge City School District, like all school districts, makes the health and safety of its students a top priority.
Ben HarperRyan Oliver
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the overall focus has been on keeping students healthy, but that doesn’t mean that the Cambridge Schools has overlooked student safety. In fact, Cambridge Schools recently made two investments to increase school safety.
Cambridge Schools recently added a second School Resource Officer (SRO) and purchased a two-way radio system.
A partnership with the City of Cambridge led to the addition of a second SRO.
“The partnership with the city is extremely important. We are part of the City and it is important that we work together to benefit the community,” Cambridge Schools Superintendent Dan Coffman said. “It is extremely beneficial for everyone involved to know that there is open dialog and conversation going on between the school district and the city.”
Cambridge City Safety Director Rocky Hill, a former school board member, agrees.
“When it comes right down to it, the City and the School District work hand-in-hand to provide a safe and positive environment for education,” Hill said. “The schools and the city are a huge part of the community and when we work together, it benefits the entire community.”
Hill, a former DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer for the Cambridge Police Department who spent a good bit of time educating students on the dangerous of drugs and alcohol, also sees the benefit of establishing a relationship between local law enforcement and the students.
“Building a relationship with students and staff members is important,” Hill said. “It lets the students see that law enforcement officers can be trusted and are available to help.”
The City obtained a Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS Hiring Program grant that provided them with the funding to hire and assign two police officers to Cambridge Schools.
Police Officer Ben Harper was assigned to the school district starting this semester. Harper, a product of the Cambridge School District, joins Ryan Oliver who has been assigned to Cambridge Schools for several years.
“It is a win-win for us to have a second SRO,” Coffman said. “Getting Ryan on board a few years ago was a step in the right direction for the district. Having a second full-time person is significant and something a lot of districts of our size do not have. It allows for the officers to do more prevention and education with our students.”
Harper will be based at the Middle School while Oliver will remain based at the High School. Both officers visit the other buildings in the school district.
“They add a tremendous value from a law enforcement standpoint of keeping our staff and students safe,” Coffman said. “They help with traffic patterns and speed control especially at pickup and drop-off times. They help with busing issues at bus stops. They also are instrumental in our school safety plan. They conduct lockdown drills and ALICE drills, and they are getting more involved with our students teaching on topics like driving education and drug education.”
The School District and the City have split the cost of a resource officer in the past and will continue to split any expenses in the future, however, that financial burden has been significantly lowered by the COPS grant obtained by the City. The grant funds two officers by providing $250,000 over a three-year period.
Two-Way Radio Purchase
The school district recently purchased a two-way radio system that enables staff members at each building to talk to each other and to the police department without the use of landlines or cellular phones. They also have a silent signal that can be used to contact law enforcement in an emergency.
“We had walkie-talkies before, but they didn’t allow building-to-building communication or the ability to contact law enforcement,” Coffman said. “These radios get used in the building every day especially at drop-off and pickup times, but the real value is the ability communicate in a crisis situation when landlines are not accessible and cell towers are overwhelmed and not available.”
Approximately 100 radios were purchased. All buses and maintenance vehicles now have a radio in addition to the transportation office, the secretaries in each building, the principals and other staff members.
The communication system was purchased with school safety grant funds and money from the district’s permanent improvement fund.