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Students walk through a hallway at JC McKenna Middle School in Evansville.

EVANSVILLE

The Evansville School District will not add a school resource officer next year, despite some previous discussion about doing so.

The district passed a $34 million referendum in November, which included district security upgrades, Superintendent Jerry Roth told The Gazette.

Before the referendum passed, Roth discussed with city officials the possibility of sharing costs to bring a school resource officer to the district, but plans were not finalized. The district’s community advisory committee did not identify a resource officer as a high priority in its referendum planning, he said.

Police Chief Scott McElroy said he and other city officials were on board, and the city council allocated money for a school resource officer in its 2019 budget.

After the referendum passed, school officials chose to prioritize other safety needs, such as secure entrances, over the addition of an officer, Roth said.

The community showed little support for a resource officer in a 2014 survey. The district did not ask the community about resource officers in its 2018 survey.

McElroy was disappointed the district won’t have a resource officer in the coming year but said he understands making budget decisions is tough. He respects district officials for quickly communicating with the city and police, he said.

Adding a resource officer might happen someday, and the city and school district continue to have a strong relationship, Roth and McElroy agreed.

The Gazette was unable to reach City Administrator Ian Rigg for additional details on the 2019 city budget.

Security is only a small portion of the $34 million school facilities upgrades.

Committees have met twice a month since December to plan for the upcoming work, Roth said.

Construction on all three district campuses will begin this summer, and officials hope all construction will be complete by summer 2020, Roth said.

Students at JC McKenna Middle School will be relocated to the south end of the building in May as the rest of the building is torn down to make way for the new middle school, Roth said. The district hopes portable classrooms will not be needed.

Space in the middle school during construction will be tight, Roth said. Physical education classes will be held at the Grove Campus when weather does not allow for outdoor class and students will hear noise from construction during class.

But the new middle school pros will outweigh temporary cons, Roth indicated.

The new school will keep grade level core classes and lockers together by floor, which will significantly cut down travel time for students between classes. Non-core classes, such as band and physical education, will have greatly improved classroom space, Roth said.

Designs for additions and renovations to other district buildings are being worked through, Roth said.

Designs will likely go to the school board for approval in coming weeks. All design plans and projects paid for by referendum funds will have to be approved by the board, Roth said.

Community members are welcome to attend planning committee meetings, which are held the first and third Wednesdays of the month, Roth said.

Reporter - Milton, Edgerton, Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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