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Schools Address Safety Concerns

In the face of budget cuts, local school administrators look to fund student safety, but tight budgets can make security upgrades a challenge. It is a challenge officials say they have to overcome. School leaders in Columbia are working to install a police sub-station inside Jefferson Junior High in central Columbia. It’s one of a number of new safety upgrades planned for Columbia schools, and although administrators say money is available for these projects, sometimes a lack of funding can prevent or slow necessary changes. Jefferson City Public Schools Spokesman David Luther said there probably is not enough money available for many necessary upgrades. “We have some things coming up in the very near future that we feel we will be able to add to our budget that can go specifically to technology and safety… those two are very closely intertwined now.” Those budget challenges are not unique to Jefferson City. Although Columbia officials currently have funds for some planned safety improvements, more can always be done. That calls for more money, like the school resource officers Columbia school officials would like to see at every building in the district. “But that comes with a significant cost,” Columbia Public Schools Spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said, “that’s a personnel cost, that’s somewhere in the 1.6 to 2 million dollar range… that’s a little different than spending 60,000 dollars to make sure all your buildings are equipped with buzz-in systems.” “Any time you start talking about personnel, it’s expensive,” Luther added, “it’s just a matter of prioritizing; looking at your budget and trying to find some money that you can put towards that.” Columbia school officials are in the process of getting schools more lighting, intercoms, more cameras and upgraded radios. Luther says Jeff City schools are looking to make similar changes, when the budget allows for them. “Safety is always the most important aspect,” Baumstark said, “you certainly don’t want to skimp on areas that could be easily addressed when it comes to safety and security.” Baumstark said the police sub-station at Jeff Junior High should be up and working in the very near future. She said that is one solution to the financial problem that comes along with getting more school resource officers. District officials hope the added police presence will not only help when problems arise, but act as a deterrent beforehand.

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