MERIDIAN, Idaho — The West Ada school district is adding six school resource officers this year, designated to the district's elementary schools. The district now has a total of 29 SROs through partnerships with Meridian Police, Boise Police, and the Ada County Sheriff's Office.
These new positions were proposed by Meridian Mayor Robert Simison earlier this year and the city council approved funding in mid-August.
Officer Danelle Barrera is one of four existing Meridian Police officers who filled the new SRO positions, each with several years of experience within the department. An additional two Meridian SROs will join the team after winter break.
We caught up with Officer Barrera at Ponderosa Elementary School on the first week of school. She will split her time between four nearby elementary schools each week.
"My goal is to make sure [the students] are not afraid of me," Barrera said. "So I try to get out when they're passing [in the halls], go to their recesses, and I try to go to their lunch period."
That gives Officer Barrera a chance to socialize with kids in an effort to strengthen relationships with kids on campus before an emergency. She hopes to teach them about bike safety, stop signs, and how to properly use crosswalks in addition to other safety topics.
Before the start of the school year, all school resource officers undergo training addressing things like how to evacuate students during an emergency, breach locked classroom doors, and prepare for the worst-case scenario: an active shooter on campus.
"We wanted to get not just the school resource officers in Meridian on the same page, but the school resource officers in the valley on the same page," Barrera said. "Because if something happens, it's not just going to be me or the school resource officer at Owyhee, it's going to be Nampa, Boise, Ada County; they're all going to be coming to help us out because it's going to be a major incident."
Although Barrera can respond to a crisis at any of her assigned schools in a matter of minutes, she works closely with school staff and teachers on their roles to act quickly in an emergency.
"I sat down with teachers specifically, like, 'What do I do with my classroom?' because they're not all the same," Barrera said. She then gives them ideas on how to rearrange their classrooms to make it safer or quicker to move furniture in case of an emergency.
The schools also use a single point of entry for students and visitors through a locked front door where staff can communicate through an intercom and grant access. All classroom doors lock, and other exterior doors can only be opened from the inside.