By Carson Gerber
---- — Armed officers for the first time will greet students returning to Peru Community Schools on Friday.
The district recently hired five armed guards, also known as student resource officers, to patrol the district’s five schools.
School officials said they decided to hire the officers after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults last December.
Peru High School Principal Jason Cary said four of the guards are recently retired police officers from Miami, Howard and Cass counties. The Peru Police Department will provide another officer.
Cary said the district currently is paying for at least three of the officers, but should recoup that money from a $50,000 Secured Schools Safety grant through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. He said the district will know if it won the grant by Nov. 1.
The city of Peru also has appropriated more than $30,000 to hire a new police officer, who will serve as a student resource officer during the school year and work for the department during holidays and school breaks.
Cary said having armed guards at schools is a big change for the district, but the community supports the move.
“We’ve had a good response about the program,” he said. “I think people understand that we’re trying to be proactive.”
Cary said students will be introduced to their school’s resource officer during the first week of class.
Each guard will patrol the school, check doors and use video surveillance to ensure each building’s safety, he said.
“For schools in Peru, I think we’re vulnerable,” Cary said. “But we’re telling kids that their safety is important to us, and I think that says something.”
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.