BEEBE, Ark – School safety is at the top of many minds in Arkansas lately, especially after the school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.
In the last year, Beebe School District has implemented new safety measures for students and staff, and the latest could cut down on police response time significantly. Officials say they are in the final steps of creating a district police department.
The department would be made up of five officers, with one stationed at each campus.
“It allows us as teachers to kind of let our guard down a little bit and do what we need to do in the classroom because we know that there’s things in place that are our frontline,” Beebe Elementary School teacher Amber Gordon said.
Gordon has been teaching since 2009. At that time, she said safety wasn’t really a worry.
“I feel like we have really had to turn on a dime, especially with what’s happening in society,” Gordon said.
Messages about staying safe are spread across the district. While they are a good thing for most, some say it’s also a painful reminder of a dark reality.
“Honestly, its petrifying,” Gordon said.
School shootings are happening across the country and Gordon said it’s important to be prepared.
“We want Beebe to be a district where parents [and] guardians can bring their kids to school and know they’re going to be in a safe learning environment,” Beebe School District Athletics and Safety Director Ryan Marshall said.
Marshall is part of the team helping create the district’s police force. He said if anything, having dedicated school officers will cut down on response time if something happens.
Marshall said right now, response time from officers off campus is about two and a half minutes. If the officers are on campus, it cuts it down to under 60 seconds.
“Safety is the number one concern for our students,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the officers will be hired as school employees, which unlike school resource officers means they can’t be pulled away for any other city or county duties. He said the district is going through its final approval process and hopes to have the department up and running by July.