Chester County approves officers at 3 high schools

In this 2015 file photo, Chester County Sheriff’s Deputy Calvin Carter is shown at Chester High School.
In this 2015 file photo, Chester County Sheriff’s Deputy Calvin Carter is shown at Chester High School. Herald file photo

Chester County’s three high schools will finally get deputies in the schools, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The County Council unanimously approved a deal between the Sheriff’s Office and school district late Monday that hit snags during late negotiations, forcing the school year to open Aug. 15 without school resource officers in the three high schools.

Although the council approved the deal, school district officials have not yet signed it – even though the school board approved it. So sheriff’s deputies as of Tuesday were still not stationed at the schools.

The district dropped deputies in 2015 in favor of private guards, saying the schools could have a presence on all campuses for the same money rather than having to share deputies among campuses.

But the decision has been rife with controversy. Sheriff Alex Underwood blasted the decision in 2015 as not in the best interest of child safety, and many parents complained.

The sides had concerns over the access of officers to school areas and in dealing with resolution of complaints handled by officers, but Underwood signed the agreement Monday before the council meeting.

It remains unclear when school administrators will sign off on the agreement, clearing the way for deputies to be on campus for the first time in more than a year.

Councilman Alex Oliphant said after Monday’s meeting that while the council approved the agreement after the county and schools each agreed to pay half the cost of the three officers, the sheriff and the schools ultimately have to make it work. It is unfortunate, Oliphant said, that the school year started without the deal in place after it appeared an agreement was reached more than two months ago. The school board gave their unanimous approvallast week.

County officials had to approve the money for the officers but how it is implemented is between the sheriff and the schools, Oliphant said.

“We can’t tell another elected official what to do, and we can’t tell the school district either,” Oliphant said.

Earlier this year, school officials agreed to staff the three high schools with deputies. Underwood agreed, and the county and schools agreed to split the cost.