The decision will pull deputies from five high schools in four school districts
CLARK COUNTY — The Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) confirmed this week that they are pulling deputies from five high schools in the unincorporated areas, at least for the duration of the coming school year.
The five deputies assigned as School Resource Officers (SROs) were stationed at Prairie High School in Battle Ground Public Schools, Columbia River and Skyview High Schools in Vancouver Public Schools, Heritage High School in Evergreen, as well as Hockinson High School.
While the move comes amidst a national narrative about policing practices, and a decision by Portland Public Schools to end their SRO program with Portland Police, CCSO Sgt. Brent Waddell said this is largely a budgetary decision, rather than a political one.
“The sheriff’s office is a firm believer in the SROs and all the school districts are firm believers in SROs,” said Waddell. “It’s just another one of those things that comes up right now. Let’s look at it and see how it’s going.”
The five deputies assigned as SROs have been back on patrol duty since the start of April, following the decision to close school buildings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, something they would normally do during the Summer months when school is out.
With all Clark County districts beginning the next school year with fully remote learning, those deputies would either have remained on patrol duty indefinitely, or else be guarding empty buildings, said Waddell.
Each SRO costs, on average, $75,000 per year. Generally, that cost is split with the school districts. Even with the sheriff’s office taking on the full cost, said Waddell, the department can realize some cost savings by reducing overtime in other departments.
“In a nutshell, it does save us on overtime,” said Waddell. “It also allows us to move some personnel to different deployments and adjust where we are, which also further cuts down on overtime and investigative costs.”
Spokespersons for both Evergreen School District and Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) noted that it remains unclear when or whether students will return to physical classrooms this coming school year, so paying for deputies or police officers to guard empty buildings didn’t make much sense.
“Evergreen continues to believe it is a valuable program,” said spokesperson Gail Spolar in an email to Clark County Today, “as does the Sheriff’s Department, and we will work together on next steps.”
“The district understands the decision by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to discontinue the 2020-21 agreement with the district,” added Patt Nuzzo with VPS. “In addition, VPS will start the 2020-21 school year with remote learning, thereby eliminating the need for school resource officers.”
Battle Ground adds SRO
Only a few hours after the decision by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the Board of Directors for Battle Ground Public Schools voted 5-0 in favor of accepting a three-year federal grant of $95,000 to add a second SRO for the district.
The officer, who will be hired by Battle Ground Police Department, will work at primary and middle schools inside the city limits. There is already an SRO at Battle Ground High School.
The district will cover half of the cost, though with no CCSO deputy at Prairie High School this year, and schools online only to start, the expected cost the first year is expected to be $15,000. After that, the second and third year would cost the district approximately $40,000, with the city picking up the balance.
The grant requires that the SRO be retained for a fourth year, at full cost to the city and district.