The St. James R-1 School District was unable to hire a school resource officer before Christmas break, but officials hope to have a candidate in place some time in the near future.
"Maybe second semester we can get it done." said Schools Superintendent Joy Tucker. "We're still interviewing, and we've had strong candidates. We hope to get something accomplished pretty quick."
St. James Police Chief Ron Jones, who has been a part of the interviewing process, said the department and the school district are "still actively looking."
In the interim, Jones continues to be present in and around the district's three area schools.
"Usually if any of the schools have issues, they will call me directly," Jones said. "I have a good relationship with the principals, and I will go over there directly and talk with the kids. But there's nobody right now to go over there and ... handle stuff full time."
Former St. James Police Chief Jim Anderson – then employed through the Phelps County Sheriff's Office –was the district's last full-time SRO before taking the job as chief.
Jones said in a previous interview that the new SRO will be a St. James police officer, but his or her primary duties will be school-related, only filling in with the department while officers are on vacation and during extended school-vacation periods.
"The SRO will be somebody the kids can relate to, and he or she can build a good rapport not only with the faculty but with the students as well," Jones said. "If anything, it will give the kids a positive role model.
"In my opinion, we need an officer there to deal with school issues. With all the school-related issues that we have now, the SRO will be our first line of defense in case something like that should ever happen. The police presence may deter certain things, especially after school."
The search for a new SRO began earlier this year. Tucker hoped to have someone in place before the break, but the job opening has proven difficult to fill.
"... I don't want to hire somebody for the sake of hiring somebody... I want some technology piece to this," Tucker said in a previous interview. "They are going to have some kind of technology background, but the biggest part of this is the willingness to learn"
Once a candidate is selected, he or she will be brought before the school board for final approval.