Pandemic's impact on School Resource Officers: "Along the Way"
The Pennington County Sheriff's Office is involved in the School Resource Officer program in 4 different school districts.
This Spring they were planning to train in a new supervisor for the program, but just as the pandemic threw a wrench into sports, and graduation, it also put the brakes on that transition to a new leader.
Just as students, teachers, and parents are dealing with an uncertain path forward: so are the School Resource Officers that dedicate their days to being at school with the students.
School Resource Officers work hard day in and day out, dedicated to students--genuinely caring about the kids they work with, so when school doors closed early this year it was tough on them too.
"We help try and provide that stability and that routine, and that friendly face that they see everyday at school and help know that they're safe, and feel safe so that they can learn," says Lt. Chris Hislip of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office has public service announcements, where there's no mistaking, the SRO's love what they do.
And, they take video of the special events the Resource Officers participate in with the kids
Lieutenant Chris Hislip has been the Supervisor of the program for the past 4 years and absolutely loved it. The Sheriff's Office oversees SRO's in portions of Rapid City, Hill City, the Douglas School District, and Wall.
"I have an office at Stevens. I have an office down in Hill City and one at Douglas Middle School," Lt. Hislip says.
But he recently got promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant and new responsibilities. And this month, Sergeant Scott Sitzes was scheduled to train in as the new supervisor, overseeing a program that covers a lot of territory.
"We would shadow and teach and introduce him to all the school personnel in all our districts that we cover," Lt. Hislip tells us.
"We were supposed to be spending about 3 weeks together," says Sgt. Scott Sitzes of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office.
Lt. Chris Hislip says, "And that didn't happen. So we're gonna have to go with Plan B," Hislip says.
Plan B means delaying the training, and transition to this fall. Sitzes has been with the Sheriff's Office since 2011, but the pandemic has led us into uncharted waters, with nobody sure what to expect when it's time for school's to reopen.
"I'm 100 percent certain we'll be fine on the other side. But what that looks like--what that fine is--I don't know," Sitzes says.
When school buildings were locked up, the SRO's many were reassigned to help with other parts of the Sheriff's Office mission like working patrol.
"While at the same time still sticking with the schools and helping distribute lunches, computers," says Hislip.
"Every single one of them I've heard talk about the kids, kids they're concerned about, kids that they have enjoyed working with," Sgt. Scott Sitzes says.
"It is disappointing that we don't get to do some of the normal milestones that we normally would associate with High School. But we'll get through it and we'll come out stronger. It'll make you a better person, which is more resilience which is what we need," Hislip says.
And somehow, just seeing the SRO's smiling faces in the promos,and the commitment on the faces of these 2 sort of, stuck in limbo supervisors, you get the feeling they're right in their message to students, which is: we'll get through this, and we'll get through it together.
Part of an SRO's job is being a counselor and a mentor, which will come in handy this Fall.
Of course the Rapid City Police Department has School Resource Officers, as does the Box Elder Police Department, so they work together to make sure all the school's get covered.
If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call or e-mail us to let us know.