School board approves hiring company to train staff members.

The Magazine School Board voted unanimously tonight to join a growing number of school districts which have armed staff on their school campuses.

The board made the decision after a 45-minute presentation and a question and answer session with Jon Hodoway of School Training Services.

The training could begin as soon as October, Superintendent Brett Bunch said.

Hodoway said his company provides the staff members with 60 hours of mostly objective training which he described as "narrow but deep."

The cost of the training is $20,000 for up to 12 individuals. Hodoway added school resource officers are allowed to undergo the training without charge and most have indicated the training is more specific than any SROs have been subjected to before.

That, Hodoway said, is especially true of the subjective scenario situations, which are conducted in the school itself to gauge the staff members’ performance and decision making when responding to an active shooter on the campus, as well how to deal with law enforcement responding to the situation.

Bunch began looking into the idea last year, attending a board meeting in a Franklin County school.

All Franklin County school districts have since signed on with the company and the company also works with the Clarksville School District -- the first in the state to have armed personnel -- and the Scranton School District in Logan County, as well as others in northwest Arkansas.

Bunch said he has had nine staff members express an interest in being one of those trained. He also said those individuals cover each area of the school.

Though he said he does suggest making it known there are armed personnel on the campus, exactly which staff members will be carrying a weapon will not be revealed by his company, and is not subject to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Staff members selected for the program will first be required to undergo drug screening and a psych evaluation at the cost of the district or individual, but all training with certified law enforcement instructors and use of all weapons for the course is covered in the contract.

The training also allows participants to exit with an enhanced conceal carry license, Hodoway said.

Participants are also required to undergo 24 hours of additional refresher training annually which costs "under $5,000" but can be reduced by group training with other schools in the program.

Booneville Schools superintendent Trent Goff was in attendance at the meeting and is working to set up a time for Hodoway to address the Booneville School Board.

Goff broached the subject in his first meeting as the superintendent in July, but he said tonight the subject is not on the Aug. 14 board meeting agenda.