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FLORENCE — Three Florence area schools will have a law enforcement officer on campus beginning in early 2021, thanks to a state grant, following approval of the school board.

The officers will work at Mountain Vista Academy and Skyline Ranch K-8 in San Tan Valley and Magma Ranch K-8 near Florence. The grant is specific to those three schools, Florence Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Adam Leckie told the board.

The district applied for an officer on every campus, but based on the grant criteria, those were the only schools awarded, he said. At this time the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is only able to provide two officers, but the district plans for them to cover all three schools. The officers must be assigned by mid-January.

The board approved an agreement with the office for the school resource officers at the board’s Nov. 10 meeting. Funding is provided through an Arizona Department of Education School Safety grant.

School resource officers won’t be involved in school discipline but will provide education related to the law and law enforcement, Leckie said. The goal is safe campuses while fostering relationships between the community, students and law enforcement.

According to FUSD’s agreement with the Sheriff’s Office, the school resource officers will endeavor to: assist the school staff with public safety and community policing-related classroom instruction; make both formal and informal contacts with the students, including as a club sponsor, coach or organizer of alternative activities; assist in developing programs to address truancy, identify students who may be under the influence of alcohol or other substances and deter weapons on campus.

They will also help instill a sense of security and self-esteem in students; relate with students as role models in order to foster trust between youth and law enforcement; assist in the development of an evaluation component to assess the effectiveness of the school safety program; and fulfill their duties as sworn law enforcement officers for the state.

Superintendent Chris Knutsen said although the new quarter of the school year has been challenging, disciplinary issues have been at an all-time low. “I believe that’s because our kids are so grateful to be back in school.”

With five openings for custodians in the district, the biggest struggle has been cleaning the buildings, Knutsen said. Current staff have been offered extra pay if they wish to stay late and help clean. He expressed thanks to teachers and administrators for all their efforts.

“It’s really been great to see how we’ve all come together during this time.”

Board members also congratulated the three new board members elected this month, Roger Biede, Sherri Jones and Tammy Quist. Jim Thomas, who will be leaving the board along with Bob Dailey and Katrina Solis, urged the new members to avail themselves of the new board member orientation provided by the Arizona School Boards Association.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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