Long-time school safety program getting the ax next semester

Long-time school safety program getting the ax next semester

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said he will have to end a long-time safety program for public and private schools in the district next semester.

The C.O.P.S. program, which stands for classes on personal safety, has run for over 15 years and is required for all fourth- and fifth-graders in the Madison Metropolitan School District and a few private schools in the city.

Four officers run the program and cover a wide array of topics from online safety and bullying to the dangers of underage drinking.

Koval was unavailable for comment, but in a previously recorded podcast explained his reasoning for cutting the program, citing staff shortages in his department and a need for more patrol officers on the street to respond to calls.

Joel Balles currently serves as the Madison Metropolitan School District Safety Coordinator, and was a former Madison Police Department captain for more than 30 years.

Balles said this program doesn’t just teach children important information, it helps them build stronger connections with officers.

“There was a relationship built there with the officers and the police department and the families of the kids that went through that program and it’s really sad that we stand on the brink of potentially losing that,” Balles said.

Madison school officials hope the program will not be cut if Koval’s 2018 city budget request of over $70 million is approved.

The district will have a definite answer on the fate of the program when the budget goes through in November.

News 3 reached out Mayor Paul Soglin’s office for comment, but did not get a response.

MMSD spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson said school administrators have not discussed how they will replace the program if it gets canceled.