WILKES-BARRE – The solicitor for the Hazleton Area School District has asked a Luzerne County judge to approve the appointment of a school police officer as part of the district’s initiative to improve safety on its campuses.
Attorney Christopher Slusser filed a petition Tuesday asking a judge to approve the school board’s appointment of Michael Strenchock to serve as the district’s third armed resource officer. Since the shootings at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn., in December, school districts locally and elsewhere have been implementing more security.
The school board on March 26 voted unanimously to hire Strenchock, who previously worked for 26 years for the Hazleton City Police Department in a number of positions, including police chief.
“The presence of resource officers has an impact on the climate of our school buildings and gives parents a comfort level that there are trained people in the building if a situation does arise … ,” Assistant Superintendent Donald Bayzick said Tuesday.
The school district’s security department committee recommended Strenchock, of Hazle Township, for the position at its March 20 meeting.
Strenchock primarily will be assigned to the Hazleton Area Career Center but would be available to other buildings if needed, Bayzick said.
Strenchock is one of three resource officers in the district, including one who is stationed at the Hazleton Area High School, Bayzick said.
District solicitor Christopher Slusser said one of the officers is a state police officer.
At the March 26 board meeting, school directors also voted in favor of spending $80,000 to buy metal detectors for the district’s elementary and middle schools. The board also is discussing whether to approve armed or unarmed guards for the detectors.
Currently, 10 metal detectors are placed at the administration building, high school, career center building and a ninth-grade center — all on West 23rd Street in Hazleton.
School personnel also are permitted to inspect backpacks, purses or other bags, according to school district policy.
At a special meeting Monday night, the school board discussed the purchase of a card access system, cameras and a burglar alarm for installation at its Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences school, located at Drums Elementary Middle School in Butler Township.
The Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences school is currently a ninth- and 10th-grade pilot program for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
For right now, Strenchock’s appointment is in line with the security plans the district has been putting into place, and that it doesn’t mean more officers won’t be added in the future, Bayzick said.