The first year of the Kenston Resource Officer program has concluded and it is being hailed as a successful endeavor by the school district and the Bainbridge Police Department. The second year for the program will begin on Aug. 15 when the academic year kicks off.
Safety and security at all schools has been a concern with districts nationwide due to the increase in school shooting incidents.
Bainbridge Police Officer Brian Reardon is one of several officers from the department who spends his time at the school one or two days a week. The officers do it on their days off and are paid through the school district.
“I’m at the schools on average one or two days a week,” Officer Reardon said. A day involves being there from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. He is present at the start of the school day at the school entrances, greeting and interacting with students and parents as they arrive. “Each officer may be different,” he noted of different routines.
After the students’ arrival he walks through all the buildings, sometimes stepping into classrooms, usually in the elementary grades. He knows many students thanks to his 22-year involvement with the Safety Town pre-kindergarten summer program and the DARE middle school program.
“I just drop in and say hello,” he said of the classroom visits to see what students are doing and what they are working on. “I’m already in the schools and being a resource officer is just extra,” he said.
Later in the day, at the school cafeterias, he interacts with students, sometimes eating lunch with them, usually at the high school, he said. “I try to be at most of the lunch periods,” Officer Reardon said.
A goal of the officers is to be seen at all the schools and to let everyone know they are there, he said. It is a balance of all the schools with interaction between police, students and staff. “And staff at all the schools can get in touch with us,” Officer Reardon said. A radio system connects all the school buildings and the officers monitor the radios, responding if staffers call.
The officers are seen as being approachable for the students and staff. “They all interact differently,” Officer Reardon noted. “And it’s a combination of protection and public relations at the schools.”
“We are there at recess, and I’ll go out to interact,” he said of the Kenston Intermediate School and Timmons Elementary School schedules. Officers also attend parents’ days, assemblies and other special gatherings.
The officers are on regular rotations and the Geauga County Sheriff’s deputies help out when needed. Since the sheriff deputies cover Auburn Township, it is good for the Auburn students to see them and get to know them, Officer Reardon said.
“It’s a great program and we have good contact with the school staff and the students,” he said.
Kenston Superintendent Nancy Santilli said the first year with the school resource program went well. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Kenston Board of Education will be approving another agreement for the upcoming school year, she said. “From a safety standpoint, it involves multiple officers interacting with our students and staff,” Mrs. Santilli said. The officers have a greater awareness of the campus and if there is an emergency, they are better prepared because they know the campus.
Several years ago, the district was one of the first to receive a grant for one officer, she said. This approach with multiple officers knowing the campus is very positive. “It’s a partnership with the Bainbridge police through the township and it is not cost prohibitive to us,” she added.
“Just having them here has been great for overall safety for our school district,” she said. They assist with directing traffic during community events and they are in the classrooms, even reading with the classes and interacting with the students and staff.
“When they see kids out, they know them, some by name,” she said. “Their interaction is extremely positive with the students.” The students love the officers, she said. “And Officer Reardon is like a rock star with the kids.”