GERONIMO, Texas – Not on our campus. That’s the message from a local school district in response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.
For the first time ever, Navarro ISD in Geronimo (near Seguin) has an armed guard patrolling its schools. The small-town district has 1,600 students attending schools that are all on one piece of property. Off-duty sheriff’s deputies will patrol every campus, including the elementary school.
The district says the Newtown tragedy was a game changer. The flags still fly at half-staff on Navarro’s elementary building. They’re a painful reminder of a tragedy thousands of miles away that hit so close to home for Superintendent Dee Carter.
"As I have learned over a very long career, there are things that no one can anticipate or control,” she says.
But what the district can control, she says: how prepared the community is for the unthinkable.
"These awful things seem to happen in small towns or suburban areas,” Superintendent Carter says.
That’s why as students returned from winter break they were joined by off-duty deputies from the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office.
"They'll be walking the campus,” Sheriff Arnold Zwicke says. “They'll be driving the campus. Whatever the situation calls for to ensure the campus and children are safe."
The district’s never had security officers, even at the high school. Now, deputies will work in shifts, one at a time, patrolling each school on the property. Sheriff Zwicke says they’ll be paid $25 an hour, the standard off-duty rate for Guadalupe County deputies.
"Will equal and perhaps be a little bit more than an experienced teacher's salary,” Superintendent Carter says.
It’s expensive, she says, but worth the price to know that in an emergency a trained deputy will be on watch.
The district announced the change on its Facebook page
. There are more than 700 likes and 60 comments, all very supportive of having the armed guard on campus.
A parent of two elementary kids wrote, “That is awesome. Thank you.”
Another mom agreed: “Sad it comes down to having guards at a school but I love the precaution.”
One parent wrote, “My daughter felt better when she heard about the guards, and so do I.”
One community member said, “Money cannot replace lives and our youth (tomorrow’s leaders) are worth this extra safety/security.”