Lima Primary School (pictured above) and Lima Christian School (pictured below) will share a school resource officer (SRO) this year. Both photos are file photos

Students at Lima Primary School and Lima Christian School should be much safer thanks to an agreement between the Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District, Lima Christian School and the Town of Lima.

Over the last few months, HF-L, Lima Christian School and the Town of Lima entered into a unique public-private partnership. All three entities agreed to a three-way cost-sharing proposal to partner with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department in contracting to provide a full-time armed school resource officer (SRO).

During the 10 months of the school year, the SRO will split their time between Lima Christian School and Lima Primary School, HF-L’s school housing kindergarten and first-grade students, as well as be available for priority calls in the town. The three parties will each pay a bit more than $28,000 for the 10 month time period with the other two months being picked up by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department, who would be the officer’s employer and would assign them to boat patrol or other special events during the two summer months, according to Lima Town Supervisor Mike Falk.

“I facilitated putting the deal together to make it work for all of us,” Falk said during an interview. “Lima Primary was the only public school in Livingston County without an SRO, and as far as private schools in the county are concerned, St. Agnes in Avon has the Avon Village Police so LCS had no SRO coverage either.”

This was the second time that Falk broached the idea of an SRO to HF-L and Lima Christian.

“The first time was in 2018, but the timing was not right for either HF-L or Lima Christian,” Falk stated. “Now, with the state of the world today, everyone was willing to sit down together and listen and see if we could make this work for all of us.”

HF-L has been looking at SROs for its schools for the last few years, HF-L Superintendent Gene Mancuso said.

“We don’t have a lot of issues but when we do we like someone close by,” said Mancuso in an interview last week. “For our other three schools that are in Monroe County, the Monroe County Zone B is not in close proximity and our concern is response time. The same is true of Lima Primary in Livingston County. Could a Livingston County Sheriff get to Lima Primary quickly if they were on I-390 in heavy traffic? Lima Town Supervisor Mike Falk approached us and asked if we would have an interest in a SRO if the cost was split between us, Lima Christian School and the town. You can’t put a price tag on safety but by the same token, you do have to look at the cost. An SRO in Monroe County is $100,000 a year. With Livingston County, it is $80,000 a year and split three ways. This was just a great opportunity for us and guarantees an officer in Lima who can respond to Lima Primary within two minutes.”

Retired HF-L Transportation and Safety Director Bill Harvey helped the district dip its toes in the water through two Student Support Partners (SSPs) who are retired law enforcement officers and are unarmed. Mancuso said having an SRO at Lima Primary would help the district’s youngest students to learn not to be afraid of an officer.

“We’ll evaluate this SRO agreement during the year, seeing what the benefits are and see what the students and our staff say,” said Mancuso, noting that 29-30% of the district’s student body is from Livingston County. “As far as SROs for our other three schools that are in Monroe County, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has a community policing model but they are short-staffed and are actively recruiting more officers. Only a handful of Monroe County districts have SROs; SSPs are more typical right now.”

Like most public and private schools, Lima Christian has invested significantly in hardening the school against safety threats in recent years, such as installing electronic locks, the application of shatter-proof film to entry doors, limiting points of entry, video surveillance and identification -before-entry policies. This agreement is just one more way the private school is proactively trying to keep its 200-member student body and its staff members safe.

“It is just one more step on the road to making our kids and staff feel safe,” LCS Principal Vicky Britton said. “We’ve been looking at getting an SRO for at least the last four years and saw this agreement as a way to bring that to fruition.”

All three entities were grateful to Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty for his help in the partnership.

“Sheriff Dougherty was at our first meeting at Lima Town Hall and he was very proactive,” Mancuso said. “He believes SROs are a priority. The Livingston County Sheriff Department has provided SROs in several districts for many years and he told us what the department could provide and how the SRO could benefit all of us.”

Added Britton, “Sheriff Dougherty was extremely supportive; answering all of our questions.”

While the mass shooting at Covenant School (a private, faith-based school) in Nashville, Tennessee this past March in which three students and three teachers were killed was not a key factor in Lima Christian’s decision since the school had been looking into an SRO anyway, Britton said that it was an affirmation that the school needed to move in this direction.

Falk admits that the fact that all three parties have different budget cycles and trying to synch everyone’s budget to come up with the money may be a challenge going forward, but believes the agreement is just as much a win for the town as it is for the two schools.

“It’s a win for the town because I believe that before this the closest dedicated officer was a Livonia SRO and I feel that having an SRO available and visible here in Lima will help the community breathe a sigh of relief as they will respond as needed to emergencies in town. I don’t believe the mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville was necessarily a key factor in everyone’s decision to move forward with this, but an SRO at the two schools here means that they are not going to be easy targets any longer.”

©2024 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

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