Estacada School District sounds alarm on 'major problem'
Estacada School District leaders have expressed concern about the city's upcoming contract for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office for police services.
County officials informed Estacada school leaders that it is unlikely that they will have the staffing to provide a resource officer for the 2018-19 school year.
City councilors approved the contact with the sheriff's office on Monday, June 24, and deputies will begin answering Estacada's calls in October.
Through the city's current agreement with the Sandy Police Department, which continues through the end of September, the school district has a full time resource officer. The school district pays approximately $50,000 each year for this position, which amounts to half of its total cost.
Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter expressed concerns about the likelihood of not having a school resource officer. He spoke during a City Council meeting on Monday, July 13.
"This is not us saying we don't want Clackamas County. This is about the transition more than anything else," he said, noting that he hoped to have a "good dialogue" with city leaders during the meeting.
Carpenter continued that during a meeting between city staff, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and himself, three priorities for policing in Estacada had been discussed. They were to fill the positions of full time officer for the city, part time officer for the city and, lastly, school resource officer.
"That's a major problem for us," Carpenter said. "Our top obligation as city leaders should be to protect our children."
He noted that he was informed by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office that it would likely take 18 months to train for the position, which would leave the school district without a resource officer for that time.
"We are asking that you switch priorities two and three around," he said. "Priority two needs to make sure that our students are protected."
He added that he also wanted to "pressure the city and Clackamas County to make sure the ball gets rolling faster to get a school resource officer."
Carpenter described the process of switching from the Sandy Police Department to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office as "quick and insulated."
"What data was utilized to make the decision?" he asked. "The school district feels like it was quick and didn't focus on what the transition looks like."
In an earlier interview with the Estacada News, communications coordinator Maggie Kelly said school district leaders are still considering the steps they will take if a school resource officer is not available for the upcoming year.
"These are our community's children, so it's important for the district to get their input on what they want us to do. We all know the best solution is a school resource officer, but what can we do in that interim gap?" Kelly said, adding that parents and guardians would be asked this question during an upcoming town hall meeting.
She noted that the district has several concerns about hiring private security, but would continue to solicit community feedback on the matter.
"Our community continues to tell us that speeding in school zones is a concern, and we feel like the best way to combat is to have a visible police force," she said. "In case there was an emergency, an SRO has specific training."
If there is not a resource officer for the upcoming school year, the funds typically budgeted for that position would be used for building safety upgrades or private security.
During Monday's meeting, Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine said, "We are definitely going to try to make this right."
"Kids being safe in schools is very important to me," he continued.
He later told the Estacada News that he hopes to put together a task force of both city and school leaders to discuss "the importance of an SRO and how we can help as a city."
He added that it will be valuable to have the perspective of the school district moving forward.
"We missed things at a council level. The school district is a different entity," he said.
Previously, Drinkwine said the most valuable element of contracting with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office would be the additional resources they offer, noting that they have two cars for county patrol already in the area in addition to the deputies
that will soon be within city limits.
"They have a lot to offer. They have a large reaching number of cars," Drinkwine said. "We're putting the county in place, and they will put a lot back into the city."