Release from the District:
Over the past several months, tragedies due to violence have inspired increasing concerns for school safety nationwide. Cambridge-Isanti Schools shares safety is emphasized daily.
Minnesota law requires schools to conduct five lockdown drills annually as a precautionary safety preparedness measure. In an extension of these measures, C-I Schools has been working with local public safety entities since June of 2017 in preparation for an extensive active shooter drill this July. This is one of many ways the district continues to enhance its emergency planning efforts.
In 2013, the community voted in favor of a safety and security bond referendum. This allowed the district to provide secure entrances at each of its schools. As such, all doors into the interior of each school are locked during school hours, and all visitors have to enter the office from a secure vestibule to check in before accessing any school.
“The safety of our students is a matter I take very personally,” said Superintendent Dr. Ray Queener. “While events of violence have provided an opportunity to have pivotal conversations about the relevance and importance of this topic with our communities, lawmakers and school officials, this is not a new consideration at Cambridge-Isanti Schools.”
Another important piece of the district’s school safety measures are its school resource officers. C-I Schools has one full-time and two part-time SROs who presently serve its schools during school hours. The SROs are allocated to Cambridge and Isanti schools per the table below.
*0.25 full-time equivalent of the Cambridge SRO-2 position was previously for the Oakland Cooperative program. C-I Schools now runs its own standalone alternative learning program called Riverside Academy. The remaining 0.25 FTE of Cambridge SRO-2 in the current structure is allocated to the Rum River Special Education Cooperative and two of its schools.
Since October of 2016, the district has been having conversations about its SROs and the needs of its schools while considering increases in SRO time in Cambridge and Isanti schools based on these needs. In August and October of 2017, the district met with City of Isanti officials to discuss language of the SRO agreement. The district also met with Cambridge police to discuss roles and expectations of SROs last year. In March the district made a request of the Isanti and Cambridge Police Departments for information detailing the respective roles and daily services provided by each SRO prior the school board’s study session on April 24, originally scheduled for March 26 but postponed, in which SRO considerations were reviewed by the board.
“As a school board we consider multiple factors when determining how to best support the needs of Cambridge-Isanti,” said School Board Chair, Tim Hitchings. “We believe it is of the utmost importance to be fully informed of the needs, impacts and goals of any reductions or additions to our schools.”
On Wednesday, May 23 the school board will vote as whether to support administration’s recommendation to increase the Isanti SRO to full-time status from half-time and to increase the SRO-2 position serving Cambridge-based schools from 0.75 FTE to full-time during the school year. Should the board approve the recommendation, there will be three full-time SROs serving C-I Schools during the 2018-19 school year.
“It is the position of the board to carefully consider enhancements to safety within our schools in a manner that ensures equity between all schools and is, most importantly, focused on what is best for students,” said Hitchings.
Considerations for increasing SRO time have been a part of the district’s budget process that took place this spring. The SRO positions, however, are funded through safe schools funding which is a separate fund. Safe schools funding is a category of revenue generated from property tax levy designated in statute. During the present legislative session, there are considerations to increase funding of safety and security for school districts. Whether or not there is an increase in funding, the district has safe schools resources to cover the increase in costs.
“District administration along with the school board have done their homework on this matter over a period of time,” expressed Kris Crocker, director of finance and operations. “As with any recommendation brought to the school board, there are several facets that are researched and vetted to help ensure the board is knowledgeable and we are bringing forth what is in the best interests of the district.”
The district will continue to evaluate its schools’ SROs moving into the future as it does with all programming and resources on an ongoing basis.
The current SRO contracts with the cities of Cambridge and Isanti expire as of June 30, 2018. Should the board approve the increase in SRO time, the district will work with the cities on the changes and renewal of each contract.
“At the end of the day, Cambridge-Isanti Schools is about doing what we can to provide a positive learning environment for all students,” said Queener. “Our SROs do a phenomenal job with our students by building meaningful connections, among many other things, and they are assets to promoting the priority we give to safety at each of our schools every day.”