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PATERSON, NJ — When a report of a gun on campus was made last week at John F Kennedy High School in Paterson, teachers scrambled to barricade a classroom door

In a photo obtained by PIX11 News, chairs and desks, among other things, can be seen blocking entrance to a door.

While an investigation determined that it was a false alarm, the incident exposed a growing problem in the Paterson school district, where officials say they are struggling to fill vacancies on their security staff.

Much like the school bus driver shortage, the lack of security personnel has become another obstacle in Paterson since in-person learning began last month.

The plan now is to deploy off-duty police officers to the schools.

“I believe these off-duty police officers will really be able to relate to the students,” Mayor Andre Sayegh, who appeared on thePIX11 Morning News, said of the plan.

Sayegh blames the security officer shortage on a number of factors, including compensation and COVID-19.
He says it’s too early to tell whether the plan to bring off-duty police officers into schools will be a temporary or a permanent fix.

“I want to see how it works out, so we are going to gauge the effectiveness. But like I said before, it helps to have a retired police officer serving as a security chief for the school district,” he said.

The plan to deploy police officers into district schools, which the Board of Education will soon be voting on, happens at a critical time for the Paterson Police Department.

Officials say the department has been met with a number of challenges in recruiting new officers. Many officers have either retired in recent months or left for better pay in other municipalities.

It remains unclear how many officers will be brought on board to fill this security void, and to which schools they will be sent to.

The BOE voted 9-0 Wednesday night in favor of hiring two security companies for additional school security services.