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New resource officer patrols Ralls County schools

By JILL ALEXANDER Courier-Post News Intern

 

Students have returned to school in Ralls County with one major change. School Resource Officer Chris Walotka is now present during the school day.

Students have returned to school in the Ralls County School District with one major change. A school resource officer now patrols Ralls County Elementary and Mark Twain Junior/Senior High School during the school day.

“My duties consist of making sure the school is safe and secure, such as making sure the doors are locked,” said new School Resource Officer Chris Walotka. “I walk around the school to make sure nothing seems amiss or awry, no suspicious activities anything like that. Mainly to be seen, to deter any kind of criminal activity through police presence and presence of the sheriff’s department.”

he plan to hire a resource officer became official in March. There had been discussion of adding the position since Superintendent Tara Lewis came to the district three years ago.

“We’re just looking for a legal resource that can be here at the school that can provide some extra protection that is more instantaneous, being out in a rural area, so we can have somebody right here every moment,” Lewis said.

Additional security measures are also in place at Mark Twain High School, including a new double door entry system and two-way radios for staff to communicate in an emergency situation.

Ralls County is not the only local school district to have an officer on campus. Other schools, such as Palmyra, already have a school resource officer.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing for us,” Lewis said. “It’s something that we knew that if we added it, it was there forever, so it’s not something that you can drop in a couple of years. Once you add it that’s your new culture, and it’s here.”

Ralls County freshman Autumn Arndt spoke in support of the new resource officer.

“I feel like it (school shooting) would most likely happen in big cities,” she said. “But I feel like everybody needs to have somebody there that can be there if something does happen, and I feel like we’re a lot safer out here, because we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere, but a lot of people go down this highway, and you never know.”

Officer Walotka’s presence in the schools also allows students to foster positive relationships with law enforcement in a non-confrontational situation.

“I hope nothing ever does happen, but I’m definitely happy to be here,” Walotka said. “I’m happy to meet the students and develop relationships later on throughout the community and put the sheriff’s office in a positive light. We’re here to help, we’re not here to be grumpy, and we’re not here to hurt people.”

Freshman Kenleigh Epperson said having an officer on campus increases her comfort level.

“I think it’s a lot better now, because everybody gets along with him and everybody trusts that he is gonna be there when we need him,” Epperson said.

Walotka said he hopes his work days will be relatively uneventful, and students and staff will be able to their school days, safe and secure.

“My goal when I’m here every day is for it to be as boring as possible,” he joked. “Meaning nothing bad has happened, everything has went well, and everybody goes home safe.”

Ralls County's New School Resource Officer

RALLS COUNTY, Mo. (WGEM) -

Starting this school year in Ralls County, Missouri, a police officer will be on site every school day. The new officer is just one of several changes to improve safety.

According to officials, the new school resource officer is something the school district and Ralls County officials have been discussing for a long time.

Students can look forward to new improvements like a new paint job for the high school roof, refinished floors in the Jr. high gym, and updated bathrooms, all things Superintendent Tara Lewis says are big for students.

"Those were definitely needing to be done and I think students and everybody will appreciate that whenever they return to school," said Lewis.

Changes are also being made to keep students safer, like changing how visitors enter the buildings.

"We're moving [the day time entrance] down to our Jr. High entrance where there's an office right there," said Lewis, "we've also added an extra set of doors to create a foyer area."

The safer entrance also comes with the hiring of a new school resource officer by the Ralls County Sheriff's Office, something Chief Deputy Ronald Haught Jr. said is a collaborative effort.

"It's a culmination of the cooperation between the school, the Sheriff's office and the commissioners of Ralls County, and it's a partnership between all three of those groups of individuals that have really struggled to put this together and we're pretty excited to have it happen," said Haught.

Haught and Lewis said the new SRO will help students be safer and also help them develop positive relationships with law enforcement.

"We're looking for somebody that's personable, and easy for the students to connect to, as well as the adults in the building, very approachable," said Lewis, "so that somebody could go up and easily talk to this person sharing their story or asking questions."

The sheriff's office says the SRO has been hired, and is currently in training.