Arkansas City High School has beefed up its safety measures inside and outside the school by hiring two full-time security guards.
Brett Grose and Russell Leffew joined the ACHS staff in late December.
USD 470 Superintendent Ron Ballard said that both men are well qualified. Grose has served as a night watchman for the school for several years and has a strong knowledge of the school grounds. Leffew worked in the department of corrections.
“It almost sounds like we’re bringing in someone to monitor a prison,” Ballard said with a laugh.
Leffew, he added, “has a lot of experience in maintaining safe environments and on how to respond in an emergency; he’ll do a very nice job for us.”
The district discussed adding an outside security guard in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting nearly two years ago.
Ballard said that neither guard would be armed. One of the guards patrols the outside perimeter of the school, while the other oversees the inside of the building. There will be times when both will be present inside, especially during bitter cold weather.
An article in the ACHS newspaper, “The Arklight,” stated that the new guards were hired in response to vandalism problems and drug usage within the school. Ballard said he would be less than honest if he said that those problems did not exist, but said they also exist outside of the school.
“We get a portion of that,” he said. “Recognizing that having personnel on hand to protect and enhance the safe and orderly environment is what we’re going to do.”
ACHS Principal Jeremy Truelove said one of the restrooms had recently sustained expensive damage. He said that incident was not the main reason for hiring additional security.
“But it’s definitely helped toward the solution,” he said. “Sometimes students will make poor decisions and vandalize their school.”
Truelove said the guards’ main focus will be positive interaction with the students and making sure they are as safe as possible. That includes making sure everyone on campus is authorized to be there, he added.
“It’s really just additional eyes inside the building for student security,” Truelove said. “And of course, the vaping — they’re looking for that. Just making sure kids are where they are supposed to be.”
The school resource police officer already patrols ACHS, but Ballard said more than one security officer would be needed to establish control if an emergency situation or a violent outbreak were to occur.
“Having one person, a security resource officer, ain’t going to make it,” he said.
One position makes $20 per hour and the other $22 per hour, for a combined $87,360 cost in salary to the district. That does not include benefits.
Ballard said most of the students have been receptive to the new officers, who are making every effort to establish a good relationship with the students.
“At the same time, if something happens that is an urgent situation, they are going to do what needs to be done,” he said.
Ballard said while the district doesn’t want to overwhelm the school with a high number of security personnel, the school does see more than 1,000 people a day.
He’d rather apologize for being overly cautious.
“We think it is the appropriate thing to do, the safe thing to do for all of our kids and for all the persons that are in that building,” he said. “If it helps to quell any of the negative activities, that’s a benefit on top of that.”