Mission Viejo council member Schlicht’s plan to save O’Neill Elementary School

Yesterday’s Mission Viejo Dispatch included a story regarding the Saddleback Unified School District’s plan to close Mission Viejo’s O’Neill elementary school. The Dispatch title reads “Could City save O’Neill elementary school.” You can read that post at www.missionviejodispatch.com.

This pending closure is the featured story in today’s Register/Saddleback Valley News. Faced with a $10 million shortfall this closure is reportedly going to save $500,000 in annual operating costs.

In my discussion with council member Schlicht this morning we discussed something to consider that might solve this funding shortfall. The city of Mission Viejo is currently paying five (5) Deputy Sheriff’s $203,312 each to function as SRO’s (school resource officers) for an annual outlay of $1,016,560. These Deputies cover our three high schools and possibly two intermediate schools. In our discussion Ms. Schlicht said “although I would prefer private security at our schools we can still provide one SRO per school district” with this proposal to save O’Neill.

After the Columbine shooting Federal Funding was made available for school security. At this time I do not know if SVUSD has ever applied for that funding. As the safest city of our size in the nation there is a question of justification relating to using Deputy Sheriff’s in this capacity. What data do we have to justify this million dollar expenditure?  Prior to adding these officers did we have any incidents to warrant this sizable percentage of our OCSD contract?
As the O’Neill school serves our children, and whereas the city provides school crossing guards, Cathy would like to have us consider providing the $500,000 necessary to keep the school open. As proposed above that money can be shifted from the OCSD deputies now serving at our schools. Spending Mission Viejo taxpayer funds for our school districts is not a new concept. We already have another joint relationship with the SVUSD in that we provide over $500,000 to our school districts for after school and summer programs.

Unless someone can come up with a funding solution the school will be closed in June at the end of this semester.

Let me urge Mission Viejo parents who are concerned about the O’Neill School to attend Monday’s city council meeting and express your feelings on the pending closure. As this is not an Agendized item you will need to speak under Public Comments which follows the Closed Session and Presentations just after 6 p.m. If you feel uncomfortable addressing the council you can turn in a written Speaker Card expressing your opinion that will be given to the mayor by our city clerk.

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