Two area school districts are in ongoing negotiations with the Kane County Sheriff's Office after learning their full-time high school resource officers are not expected to return this fall.
Sheriff Don Kramer addressed officials from Central and Kaneland high schools during the Kane County Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting on July 14, explaining a total of 18 sheriff's officers are on leave and that the county is working to balance next year's budget, which – as of last month – had at a $2.6 million gap.
Julia-Ann Fuchs, associate superintendent for the Kaneland School District, said Kaneland High School has had a resource officer for more than 15 years. Fuchs added that the district is "very disappointed" with the recent announcement.
"We are disappointed because the safety and security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance for the district," Fuchs said.
Other high schools located in municipal areas are patrolled by municipal police, Fuchs explained, noting that Central and Kaneland high schools are located in unincorporated areas, and therefore, patrolled by the sheriff's office.
"The resource officers develop relationships with the students, and the students learn to trust the officer," Fuchs said. "The students provide the officers with helpful information."
Fuchs said that it would take 15 to 20 minutes for a sheriff's officer to arrive at the high school if an emergency occurred, assuming there is no resource officer in place.
"It is no secret that school violence is at an all-time high in our country," Fuchs said. "It would be a travesty and a disservice to the families in our community to eliminate these positions at this time."
Burlington Superintendent Todd Stirn said the subject of school resource officers is something he's "very passionate about."
"I was surprised the sheriff would even consider removing the officers from either high school, mainly because of the location and the response time," Stirn said.
"We have students, staff, parents and visitors using our facilities on a regular basis," Stirn said. "I'm really worried about continued safety."
The sheriff's office offered to provide part-time resource officers for the schools, according to Fuchs and Stirn. But both school officials agreed full-time officers are necessary. They said they plan to address the Kane County Board on Aug. 9 at its regular meeting.
"I would like to see this issue taken care of in a timely fashion," Stirn said. "The sheriff did discuss a part-time position, but that's not a satisfactory solution in this day [and] age where we see violence increasing. Now is not the time to tell our [patrons] that they're 'safe enough' and that they don't deserve the same level of safety as other schools."
Kramer did not return multiple calls for comment.