When the Octorara school board approved a contract last week for an armed security officer from a private company, it was the first district in Lancaster County to do so.
But not the first to have armed personnel on campus.
Nine of the county’s 17 public school districts have armed school resource officers, who are active police officers. SROs are employed by local police departments.
Warwick is the only local district other than Octorara that uses a security officer. He’s employed by the district and doesn’t carry a gun.
Of the 141 school districts across Pennsylvania that had some type of armed security staff last year, 88 used SROs, according to the state Department of Education.
Octorara’s decision is unusual in other ways, too.
The contract went to Signal 88 Security, a Parkesburg company, at Signal 88 was the highest bidder for the contract, which totaled $58,867.
And the company is owned by former Octorara school board member Peter Mango.
The armed Signal 88 officer will be paid $40.88 per hour. That’s more than double what Warwick’s unarmed officer earns: $18.54 per hour.
But less than a school resource officer would cost, according to Superintendent Thomas Newcome. He said by phone Wednesday that Signal 88 met the district’s specifications better than two lower bidders.
In his recommendation to the board, Newcome said that Echelon Protection and Surveillance, of Limerick, and Security Guards Inc., of Wyomissing, did not have experience with armed security in schools.
“I am reticent to have our district be the first experience for a firm in providing this level of service,” Newcome wrote.
Board member Tim Alexander said by phone Wednesday that the district should have sought bids from companies that met what the board was looking for.