Two officers leave posts at schools

COSTA MESA — With the school district unable to fund its half of two campus officers' salaries, the City Council on Tuesday approved returning the officers to Police Department at a $172,371 cost.

The officers, who will leave TeWinkle Middle School and several elementary schools, will help with routine patrol or traffic duties left by the three police officer positions eliminated earlier this year, Police Chief Chris Shawkey said.

The Newport-Mesa school district paid $172,371 to fund half of the officers' combined $344,742 in salaries. The council voted unanimously.

There will still be campus police officers, called student resource officers, at Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools. They will also take duties at the city's middle and elementary schools, city officials said.

Newport Beach has a similar setup: Each high school has an officer, who is also responsible for the lower grades.

"We've always seen it as a wonderful addition rather than a necessity," Chuck Hinman, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said of the two positions. He noted that the two officers were funded by the district with federal grant money. Without the grant, the district can't afford them, he said.

In March, four female TeWinkle students were hospitalized after huffing chemicals and taking the party drug Ecstasy on the way to school. In 2007, a boy was detained at Ensign Intermediate School after police thought he'd brought a bomb onto campus. It turned out to be vinegar and baking soda, authorities said.

In other school-related issues, the council unanimously approved narrowing Broadway between Fullerton and Irvine avenues and adding bike lanes. City officials hope making the street less wide and possibly adding a median or choke points on the street will slow drivers in the residential area just blocks from schools.

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