MADISON (WKOW) -- For years, activists have called on Madison's school district to remove police from schools and the past month has been filled with protests pushing that cause.
There are currently four school resource officers, or SROs, at Madison Metropolitan School District, but now school board members have signaled they'll not be continuing the program. The final decision will come at a meeting Monday.
Opponents of the SRO program say the presence of police in schools negatively impacts students of color and makes them feel unsafe.
Police and supporters say SROs have specific training that makes them better suited to dealing with issues that arise at schools.
School board member Nicki Vander Meulen first ran on the platform of removing officers from schools.
She says even if you overlook the negative mental impact of having police in schools, they're facing a large budget crisis because of the coronavirus and just can't afford the $350,000 program.
"We're switching to a hybrid system of education, we're going to have to get WiFi hotspots, we're going to have to provide information technology, those aren't free," she said.
School district officials say if the SRO program ends they will come up with other strategies to address student safety for kids to have a "safe student-centered environment."
Along with the future of SROs, the MMSD school board will be deciding on language in the district handbook.
According to school board member Vander Meulen, traditionally a school committee and the teacher's union, Madison Teachers Inc., have met to discuss those changes.
However, she says because of the coronavirus, that meeting was unable to happen and the committee made recommendations without union involvement.
"These aren't minor changes: changing contract from renewal every May 15 to a 30-day contract is a major thing, removing seniority is not a minor thing," she said.
School officials say the recommendations help address a lack of staff diversity and budgetary concerns due to the coronavirus.
Union officials are calling for more time to negotiate, saying district administration is using the fears and uncertainty of the pandemic to strip educators of their job security.