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BoE to add four SROs for rest of school year
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The Liberty County School System will spend an additional $400,000 to add four school resource officers for the remainder of the school year.

Board of Education members voted 6-1 for the expenditure, which will give the system eight SROs.

“I think this is a good start,” board Chair Verdell Jones said. “I think it will be a great transition. There is no telling what we may able to do in the future, but we have to do something and we have to do something now.”

School system officials said the money was available through savings elsewhere in the budget. The SROs will come from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the $400,000 will cover their salaries and benefits, plus all their equipment, from holsters to computers to cars.  

“That’s a lot of money,” board member Carol Guyett said. I’m all for it, for kids seeing officers every day. I agree with you, we have to do something.”

According to the school system, adding the four SROs will increase coverage for students and staff and increase response times for any incident. Officials also said the students and officers can interact in a more positive environment, and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office also put into place the CHAMPS (Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety) program, a 12-week effort for fifth graders. Long County has a CHAMPS program in place.

Adding the four SROs also is expected to cut down on the amount of overtime pay for deputies assigned to high school athletic events.

“We are thankful we have been able to operate without them, but we have gone as long as we can go,” Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said. “We just think this extra layer is a lot better for us. It’s a partnership.”

The new SROs also will be trained, and Jones said she wanted to make sure they understood the business of the schools is educating children. Dr. Perry said Sheriff Will Bowman will attend the training with the new SROs. A Liberty County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant will be placed in charge of the SROs.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Zheadric Barbra said the system talked with other systems that have their own campus police units but decided against putting something along those lines into place.

“They say when you get into the law enforcement business, you’re talking about liabilities. We are not experts in law enforcement,” he said. “We felt it was necessary to partner with an entity, the people that do that work and do it well. For some larger school districts, naturally, it starts to make a little bit more sense. But as small as we are, having someone handle it works a lot better.”

“It would require a lot of planning from staff,” Dr. Perry said.

The superintendent also told board members they could change the arrangement if they thought it was not working. He also said he anticipates Gov. Brian Kemp putting more money in the state budget for school safety.

“We know the governor is concerned about safety,” he said.

School board members approved school safety improvements totaling more than $917,000. Dr. John Ryan, the school system director of media and technology, said the system has identified areas in which added layers of protection will better ensure safety in schools.

Because the measure covers safety and security measures, Dr. Ryan declined to discuss those improvements in open meeting.

The price tag also covers five years and includes warranty support, and the improvements will be made at all instructional sites.

Dr. Perry recommended Adapt2Solve put in the improvements in place, under a state contract. Dr. Perry also praised Dr. Ryan’s work on the matter.

“He worked on it for quite some time,” he said.

Funding for the system safety improvements will come from the education special local option sales tax. The school system was awarded more than $1.2 million in emergency communication funding to help offset the cost of one year of the iPad lease. That funding reimbursed the ESPLOST account, and that enabled the system to use ESPLOST funding for the security upgrades.



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