By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School plans to take over the costs of its school resource officer (SRO) from the village of Oak Park, which has provided and funded the on-campus officer since 1999.
The village and OPRF are currently working on a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA), in which the high school would fully pay for the SRO until 2024, after which the two taxing bodies would split the costs 50/50.
The two sides were close to an agreement last year but couldn't finalize a deal, according to Steven Isoye, the school's superintendent. Once finalized, OPRF will pay the village roughly $145,000, which covers salaries and benefits, for the current school year. Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, that amount will increase annually by 2.5 percent or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower.
The village and OPRF will then split that cost beginning with the 2024-2025 school year.
"At some point, it's sort of our turn to carry this on, because the village has been carrying it on for so long, but that we agree that 10 years from now, that's the time we have to examine it and say, 'Alright, let's split the cost and let's work together on it, as opposed to one entity carrying it,'" Isoye said.
An SRO was also provided to the high school once a week by the village of River Forest until last year, as the agreement with the village of Oak Park was being worked on, Isoye said, noting that River Forest fully paid for its SRO.
Moving forward, the high school will go with the one SRO from Oak Park, said Isoye, adding that the high school was not interested in paying for two SROs.
Discussions between the village of Oak Park and OPRF about sharing costs for the SRO began prior to his hiring in 2010, Isoye said, noting that it's not unusual for a school district and its municipality to share costs for school resources officers. In fact, it's rare for the municipality to carry the entire cost alone.
"There are benefits to both the village and the school district in having an SRO on campus," he said. "For us, it's important to have an individual, a school resource officer, because they work closely and get to know our students. Sometimes when there's an incident and we have a police officer that is not assigned to the high school all the time, our SRO can come in and at least make sure that our students are worked with in a certain way because they know our students so well.
"That relationship is very important, and it's true at other schools where I have worked as well — the SRO has a level of understanding with students," Isoye added. "And students, because of that relationship, will often come to them if things are happening or they're not sure what to do, or they're wondering what's happening because of something they've heard about a friend. This relationship only happens when the person is in the building."
The District 200 Board of Education is expected to deliberate on this topic at its regular meeting, Oct. 23.
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