PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In a 5-2 vote, the Peoria Public School Board approved a new firearm policy allowing armed security guards to replace city police officers in its high schools.
The board approved the policy during its meeting Monday night with members Martha Ross and Lynne Costic casting the two opposing votes. The policy will allow one armed guard at Peoria High School, Richwoods High School, Manual Academy, and Woodruff Career and Technical Center.
District superintendent, Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, said the district previously paid the Peoria Police Department for security and the new measure will save the district $200,000.
Doug Shaw, President of the Peoria Board of Education, said although he’s not an advocate for guns, he believes the safety of students comes first.
“I’m not a big fan of guns and weapons but to me, it’s a necessary evil,” Shaw said. “When you’re facing threats you know people tend to bring guns when they intend to do harm, so you have to be able to match that threat.”
Shaw said this policy could start immediately as there are two security officers already trained and permitted to carry a firearm. He said the others could start as soon as they’re trained and certified.
“There are a couple that are already ready and we’ll train some more,” Shaw said. “They’ll receive the same training that law enforcement goes through.”
The board also approved an agreement with Reditus Laboratories, in Pekin, to provide rapid COVID-19 testing for its students and staff.
The partnership was made possible through a $200,000 grant from the Gilmore Foundation.
President Shaw said the rapid testing will be administered to staff members that are showing symptoms as the main goal is to target students.
“The goal is eventually to phase everyone in, but right now it’s primarily focused on the students,” Shaw said.
Shaw said testing will occur every day, possibly during a two-hour window. He said Reditus Laboratories has the capacity to test about 100 students in those two hours. He said depending on how scheduling goes, maybe alphabetically, every student would get tested about every two weeks.
“I think with the rapid testing, number one when you have kids that are asymptomatic, you’re gonna catch some of those so that will give us the ability to isolate and to stop, maybe not have to shut down entire classrooms if we’re testing,” Shaw said.
Middle school students, grades 5th and 6th, are scheduled to return to class Nov. 6, while 7th and 8th graders set to come back Nov. 9.
High school students are expected to come back at the start of the next semester. Students in grades 9th-12th are set to return to in-person learning on Jan. 5.