Changes are coming to the Robbinsville School District this school year. Beginning next month, all three schools in the district will now have SROs (School Resource Officers).
"We are grateful for the continued partnership between the Robbinsville Board of Education and Robbinsville Township," said Robbinsville Schools Superintendent Kathy Foster. "The officers' daily and visible presence will provide an additional layer of protection and safety for our school community as they establish abiding relationships with staff and students and become active participants in the life of our schools."
According to the Robbinsville Board of Education, the decision to have law enforcement in all three schools was made last February, right after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting transpired in Parkland, Florida.
"The world has changed in so many respects, which is why boosting school security on all three of our campuses was imperative," Robbinsville Mayor and Director of Public Safety Dave Fried said. "We are more than happy to work with the school district and our great police department on this critical initiative."
Working in the elementary school will be Officer Melyssa Alonso. Alonso joined the RPD last year and always dreamed of working with children. She will be the school's first SRO.
"I use to want to be a teacher and then changed career paths," she explained. I get the best of both worlds now, being with the kids and still doing a job I love. I love kids and interact very well with them."
Working in the middle school will be Detective Kevin Colgan. Colgan who has worked in the school before as a DARE instructor, will now be there full time.
"I've worked in the school for two years," Colgan explained. "It's a familiar territory."
Prior to becoming an SRO, the detective has worked in every unit the department has to offer and was even once an active one.
"I've done traffic, the detective bureau, patrol, impermanent officer in charge, and had my own squad for a couple of years. Looking back, I did perform some of the daily duties of an SRO."
When the opportunity came to apply for that position, the detective didn't wait.
"I put in my application within ten minutes and was pretty excited."
Staying at Robbinsville High School will be the veteran of the three, Officer Edward Vincent. Vincent who has been with Robbinsville Police Department since 2013, will be entering his sixth year as one.
"It's a big help with these two coming along," said Vincent. "I won't have to go to each school during the day. Each one of us can focus on our dedicated time toward one school. That will actually be easier for me."
Despite being full time at RHS, Vincent would make occasional trips to the middle school where he would educate the students about drugs and alcohol through the STAR program. After that, he would then stop by the elementary school to do a walk through and sometimes, serve as a guest reader to the young children.
Following an SRO being in every school, there will be other security changes the district is planning, in order to make things safer for students.
"A lot of the changes they are doing are to make things safer for the school and easier for everybody," Vincent explained.
While it might seem stressful, the new SROs are confident that there will be no stress at all.
"I don't think there's going to be any stress," Colgan admitted. "I enjoy being around the kids and hope to have a connection with them. I hope they realize that police officer's don't just arrest people and give out tickets. They are humans beings that can socially interact with kids and have a positive impact on their lives."
Between all three schools, Pond Road Middle School has the biggest enrollment. As the community continues to grow, many families with younger children are migrating to the town, making enrollment larger at Sharon Elementary School as well. Although Robbinsville High School might not see enrollment rates as high as the other two, each officer will still share an equal amount of responsibilities.
"Between the three of us, the responsibilities are equal," Alonso confessed. "With younger kids, you are a little more worried about them because they don't know social interactions or to speak with peers about certain things. We want to be able to implement guidance and show they can come to us with any problems they might have."
Parents, students, educators, and other staff working in the district will most likely visually see these responsibilities.
"Having one of us in each school is a deterrent for any negative actions," said Colgan. "Possibly, somebody might want to think twice if they see an officer is stationed at every school now."
The goal of each one isn't just to protect students and staff but to make sure everyone is happy and having a good time as well.
"Parents listen to their kids," said Alonso. "If they like us, it reflects on their parenting and most of the community does appreciate what we do. We always want to develop that further."
The three will begin working together as a team on September 1st.