CALHAN, CO — A rural community is coming together to help keep students safe.
Calhan School District RJ-1 has partnered with the town and police department to hire a School Resource Officer that will help kids beyond the classroom.
Typically, small school districts don't have the financial means to get an SRO, but the Superintendent, Police Chief, and Town Board figured out a cost-efficient solution.
The district created the sixth Career Technical Education pathway for criminal justice that will allow them to utilize state funds for the new position.
"I love being here, I love these kids. I am excited to keep them safe, educate them, and be their mentor," said Scott Brettell, Director of Safety/Calhan Police Department.
He is stepping into the role of School Resource Officer and teacher after almost two decades with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
"When you become a police officer, the desire is to help your community. Make it better, try to go to work every day and make it better than when you've found it. To me, this is helping kids and steer them into that career path," said Brettell.
He hopes to inspire the next generation of law enforcement and first responders. To feed a newfound need in communities across the country.
"I want these kids to be exposed to different facets of emergency services. Whether it be fire, paramedic, nursing, or teaching," said Brettell. "There are plenty of jobs out there that just aren’t that post-certified police officer that you have to be at the age of 21. There are many more options, and I don’t think people realize that. The actual cops that push the patrol car down the street are a small percentage of law enforcement."
Brettell will prepare students through his criminal justice class, but also through the new Calhan Police Explorer Program for ages 14-20.
"The explorer program will be an after-school extracurricular activity. This is going to take what we learn from the classroom, and apply some of that knowledge in a practical setting. We might take some kids to a small crime scene, and allow them to process that crime scene. We can talk about it then apply it," said Brettell.
"Scott is bringing in over 15 years of experience. We are looking to him to help us with the academic side of things, teaching the kids theories and laws. The explorer program will help with a lot of the hands-on stuff that Scott mentions to the kids in class. We are kinda having this partnership where the police department is going to be a lot more hands-on... Scott and the school will teach them about the academic and theoretical," said Officer Alex Jones, Calhan Police Department.
The program will give kids the chance to protect their community.
"You will see your kid in uniform helping out at community fairs and festivals. You will see your kid helping out with emergency planning. When the community sees that, they put more trust and faith into their first responders," said Jones.
Administrators say the initiative has been three years in the making.
"School safety is incredibly important. Not just reactive school safety, but all those measures that we would consider preventative. That involves having an officer in the space, gets to know students, woven into the fabric of the school so that we're not always reactive to emergency situations," said Superintendent Dave Slothower, Calhan School District RJ-1.
According to Slothower, Brettell will help review safety protocols to ensure they're up to date and known to staff. He will also help to ensure the campus is preparing for emergency situations, including wildfires.
"I am here to keep kids safe, and mentor them to be good productive adults in society, I think I've already influenced them in such a positive way," said Brettell.
Brettell will begin teaching his criminal justice class along with the explorer program next fall.