Hart District OKs contract for school safety

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: School resource officer Tom Drake supervises as Saugus High School students break for lunch on Friday, August 25, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Six deputies will continue to work in the William S. Hart Union High School District after the district governing board voted to extend the Los Angeles County’s contract for one year for $1.05 million Wednesday.

Despite the addition of a new comprehensive high school site to their coverage area, Hart District officials decided that until Castaic High School expands beyond a single 350-student freshman class, two deputies will split time at the new high school on top of the other schools they already cover — as opposed to adding personnel to the contract.

According to the contract signed with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, each deputy for 40 hours per week costs $193,350 per year, for each of the 5.5 deputies.

“(The ‘.5’ unit) is just because the county has to pick up a part of the cost, because Stevenson Ranch and Castaic are in unincorporated areas,” said Kathy Hunter, director of student services for the district.

But because Castaic High School is set to open for the first time next Tuesday, the contract included a new provision for this year. Currently, Deputy Toby Coe covers West Ranch, Rancho Pico Junior High School and Castaic Middle School; while Deputy Pete Romo covers Valencia High School and Rio Norte Junior High School.

Starting next Tuesday, Coe and Romo will split responsibilities on the day-to-day coverage of Castaic High’s new campus, according to Shirley Miller at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

Hunter said Thursday that generally deputies spend a large majority of their time at the high school they’re assigned to, while also servicing that high school’s feeder junior high — amounting to their total coverage area being two schools.

However, Hunter said Coe has been able to cover West Ranch and Rancho Pico, since the two schools are across the street from one another, as well as Castaic Middle School because it is smaller than the Hart District schools and doesn’t require as much of the deputy’s attention (a statement that was supported by CUSD Superintendent Steve Doyle).

“And Castaic High School has so few students right now,” said Hunter, who said that Coe and Romo will be communicating with one another regularly, as well as with the rest of the SROs, in order to coordinate with one another and back each other up if need be.

“Right now, we feel like we have a really good team,” Hunter added.

Hart District board President Bob Jensen expressed his confidence in the safety and services the deputies will be able to provide, and that the board is prepared to make adjustments as needed in the future.

“As Castaic gets larger and there’s a greater need, we will consider more personnel,” said Jensen. “And that doesn’t have to be when it gets to a certain size, because we will always consider improvements for safety personnel whenever the need arises.”

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