By Alex DeMetrick

CUMBERLAND, Md. (WJZ) — Hardening a potentially soft target. In Allegany County, isolated rural schools are the concern.

Alex DeMetrick reports the solution may be off-duty state troopers.

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They cover a lot of ground, a job that puts Maryland State Police on roads and highways in every county.

But in Allegany County, schools in rural Flintstone and Westernport might become new secondary jobs for off-duty troopers. That’s because they’re a long way from police in cities like Cumberland.

“We’re looking to cover schools that aren’t in cities with local police forces. That’s the role they would play,” said Mike Llewellyn, Allegany County School Board.

The county is exploring the possibility of hiring five off-duty troopers for school security. They wouldn’t wear their uniforms, but they would be armed and they would drive the marked units they now take home.

“And the presence of that cruiser in front of the school, we think would be a deterrent in and of itself,” Llewellyn said.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. prompted the search for security.

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“That community looks a lot like our community. I know it struck me,” he said.

And placing off-duty troopers here strikes many as a good idea.

“If not a state trooper, somebody that is armed,” said Wendy Ricker.

“I think it’s a good idea. The students would learn better if they feel safer in their environment,” said Sarah Cessna.

Using off-duty state troopers for security work isn’t new, but it would be during school hours.

“We do have troopers who work alongside other law enforcement off-duty for school functions, say in the evening,” said Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police. “But we’ve never been in that type of situation in secondary employment for a five-day a week situation dealing with hundreds of students in a school setting.”

Which means help may remain a long drive away if off-duty troopers can’t be hired.

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If the county and state police do reach an agreement, the Allegany School Board estimates it will cost $300,000 a year to employ five off-duty troopers.