A local police officer is heading back to school — the first student resource officer in the East Newton School District in more than 10 years.

Increased funding helped the school bring back an SRO.

Sheriff Deputy Rico Engberg has been an officer since the turn of the century. And he says just his presence in the school has given students and staff a better sense of safety.

“It’s just that every little bit helps when it comes to the safety of the kids,” says Rico Engberg.

“It’s nice to have one person that can help do that,” says Rusty McDermott, East Newton Operations Director.

For the first time in more than 10 years, the East Newton School District will have its own school resource officer.

“I do assist if need be. If there’s a crime I will step in. Other than that, my presence making kids feel safe, and just making sure the facility is safe,” says Rico Engberg.

Officer Rico Engberg works daily throughout the three East Newton campuses, helping to bridge the distance of response time for law enforcement in the area.

“If something happens here at the school, I can step up and make sure the safety of  the kids is taken care of,” says Engberg.

“We are a rural community, so one of our K-8 campuses is a good 20 minutes- 15 minutes from here, and probably a good 30 minutes from Neosho, so it takes time for the officers or any emergency personnel to respond,” says Rusty McDermott.

While he used to work undercover with a drug task force, now officer rico looks forward to working with students.

“I’ve enjoyed everything. It’s probably the best job I’ve ever had,” says Rico Engberg.

A change of pace, but well worth it.

“I’ve been welcomed with open arms. Staff, kids, everybody- I’m always getting smiles everywhere I go, and it’s kind of rewarding to get a smile. You don’t always get that in uniform,” says Engberg.

I asked if the school district is looking to expand the number of SRO’s or further safety resources in other areas, and Engberg says safety is the number one priority, but funding will determine if they can add more personal or not.