ELIZABETH – The city’s police chief has asked the school board how it can justify reducing the security budget for monitoring Elizabeth’s 5,000 high school students at a time when it got an injection of approximately $80 million in additional state aid.
“I just cannot understand how the Board of Education can justify reducing the police presence on their campuses to zero,” wrote Chief of Police Patrick Shannon in a Sept. 14 letter to Superintendent Pablo Munoz.
School district spokesman Donald Goncalves said that there is a line item in the budget for police coverage and the district will continue to hire police officers on an “as needed basis.” The additional sate aid was applied for instructional support and programming, he said.
“We will continue to respect the fine work and rely on the dedication of our Elizabeth Police Department,” Goncalves said.
In the letter, Shannon noted that over the past several years the city has experienced a number of violent crimes associated with students being dismissed from Elizabeth’s high school campuses. “On any given day I assign anywhere from 15 to 25 or more police officers to monitor the areas near the various schools,” he wrote.
The police chief noted that in the past, the school board has taken on some of the responsibility for providing protection to their students by hiring additional police personnel to patrol the school campuses. The school board spent a total of $178,724 on police security last year, Shannon wrote, a figure that also includes costs for sporting events and extracurricular activities that require a police presence.
“The Elizabeth Police Department will continue in its dedication to protect and serve the public and provide security during the daily dismissal, as we always have,” Shannon wrote. “I do not have the available manpower though, to police the campuses. This is a burden that should fall on the shoulders of the Board of Education.”
According to Goncalves, Elizabeth Public Schools used its additional state funding to extend the school day, improve technology in the classroom and make improvements to facilities. The district’s popular Alexander Hamilton Preparatory Academy expanded into a building leased from the Archdiocese of Newark to allow more students to attend this year.
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