LEMONT - The Village of Lemont and the Lemont Police Department have applied for a grant with the U.S. Department of Justice to fund a fulltime school resource officer at Old Quarry Middle School.
The COPS Hiring Program grant would be for three years and as much as $125,000.
During a presentation at the Lemont-Bromberek Community School District 113A Board of Education meeting June 19, Lemont Police Chief Kevin Shaughnessy said the officer would provide a law enforcement presence, education for students and a resource for staff.
"Having one person who is a go-to person in your school will benefit the school and the community," he said.
The officer would be a conduit for all schools in the district, but would be primarily involved with the middle school, Shaughnessy said.
Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves, who was also at the meeting, said that having an officer at the school is crucial even if a grant is not awarded.
He said that a frequent communication he receives from Lemont residents is "asking for police presence on a fulltime basis at the schools."
Shaughnessy said the timing of the application for the grant has nothing to do with the bomb threat at Old Quarry Middle School in March. The national trend has veered towards having student resource officers in middle schools, he said.
Lemont High School has had a student resource officer for about 15 years, according to Shaughnessy.
He said the fact that there is a squad car at the high school every day doesn't create any apprehension for the parents. However, parents for District 113A students think there is something wrong when they see a car at their schools, even if it is for something routine such as a DARE class.
"The idea of having police around as an expectation, I think, will benefit the overall concern of parents, too," Shaughnessy said.
According to the Department of Justice website, the grant announcement is expected on Sept. 30. Shaughnessy is optimistic that the application will be approved, given the department's success in earning past grants.
Superintendent Susan Birkenmaier wrote a letter of support for the grant bid.
"Any additional assistance we can receive from the Village of Lemont and the police department to support students and staff is welcome," she said.