Lowell — Every parent who waves goodbye to their children as they hop aboard a school bus or skip into school has considered the security measures in place to protect their students.
Lowell Area Schools is looking to bolster its security practices by adding a second school resource officer — law enforcement personnel commonly known as SROs —with new state funding just for that purpose.
In January, 195 Michigan school districts were chosen to receive state funding to support efforts to ensure student safety. Lowell was one of four districts in Kent County chosen, and will receive more than $176,000 as its portion of the $25 million statewide investment.
Superintendent Nate Fowler said the district plans to use the grant to hire a second resource officer, whom he hopes to have in place by next fall.
“With our current SRO, we have been able to strengthen relationships with students, families and our community first responders,” Fowler said. “By adding an additional SRO, we hope to build on the success of our current SRO program.”
This SRO will primarily work in the middle school while co-supporting the four elementary schools in tandem with the current officer, Todd Summerhays, who works primarily out of the high school.
Middle School Principal Abby Wiseman is excited about the additional support coming to her school.
“SROs serve as educators first,” she explained. “They are there to mentor students while maintaining the physical safety of the building.”
Will Fill Variety of Roles
Wiseman is looking forward to having an SRO help with restorative justice initiatives and provide proactive and reactive education around common issues such as bullying, violence and the use of illegal substances.
Additionally, the new SRO will improve security practices already in place throughout the district by assisting the existing officer with everyday safety practices, such as locking doors and running drills.
‘SROs serve as educators first. They are there to mentor students while maintaining the physical safety of the building.’— Lowell Middle School Principal Abby Wiseman
Expectations are high for the new position, and Wiseman hopes the community embraces the new officer as eagerly as district administrators are. Ultimately, the SRO will serve as a community member and connect students with services, employment and other resources.
“The SRO is part of educating the whole child to build productive members of society,” Wiseman said. “Community and police relationships are crucial, and an SRO promotes positive community relations.”
With a clear idea of what a second SRO will be responsible for and add to Lowell Area Schools, the next step is to work on hiring for the position through the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have been working with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office to establish a timeline,” Fowler said. “Our goal is to start the hiring process this spring with the new SRO starting officially when we kick off the 2023-24 school year.”