LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With school starting in just a few short weeks, Kentucky educators are working to fill the mandatory school resource officer (SRO) position. They have to fill the position by Aug. 1 as outlined in House Bill 63.
"The priority is to keep our kids and our staff safe," said Peggy Sinclair-Morris, the principal of the Kentucky School for the Blind.
A priority that's also coming along with new requirements.
The new law requires at least one SRO at Kentucky schools, opening up the potential of 777 new positions according to the bill's fiscal note. The total cost of the SROs and their benefits could be around $71.4 million.
Although there is the requirement to have at least one SRO in schools, the bill states funding from local governments isn't required.
JCPS announced earlier this year its safety plan that addresses the SROs and safety measures they will take in their schools.
However, Sinclair-Morris said they would need more than the minimum requirement.
"We are a residential school. So we really need three SROs because we have a first, second and third shift. And we do have kids here on campus that sleep in the dorms," Sinclair-Morris said.
Sinclair-Morris said one issue they're running into is actually being able to find the SROs.
"Our safety administrator's been in touch with LMPD. And again, you know, they're short-staffed and so that it's going to be a challenge," Sinclair-Morris said.
The interim Joint Committee on Education met to discuss the future and importance of SROs across Kentucky last Friday.
State Security Marshal Ben Wilcox said it's been a struggle but that he has confidence they will fill the positions.
"Yes, it's difficult to get a lot of people into work. But I'm very, very positive that we're getting a lot of folks with interest in being SROs. And yes, there is definitely a factor that you cannot put anybody into that school," Wilcox said.
Sinclair-Morris said it will help bring peace of mind.
"That will give parents and staff and students too, you know, that extra sense of peace. We are an open campus, we're a part of the community," said Sinclair-Morris.
She said these officers will be trained to help their visually impaired students, hoping it allows for deeper relationships.
"Having that SRO be really part of the staff and be in the classrooms and meeting the kids and interacting with the kids that it'll really cross that bridge of, you know, this isn't just a police officer on campus, this is a part of our staff," said Sinclair-Morris.