The Georgetown County School Board has approved the money needed to put more security in the county's nine elementary schools, as well as Waccamaw Intermediate.
It's a program that District Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier said he wants to continue next year and years beyond.
The move to beef up security in schools is taking place across the country in the wake of the Newtown, Ct. school massacre which led to the deaths of 20 first-graders and six adults.
Even though $150,000 has been allocated to paying uniformed officers to be in the elementary schools as much as possible, there are not enough available officers to keep a police presence in every school all the time — at least not this year.
Dozier said he has talked with Georgetown Police Chief Paul Gardner and Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver about a plan to use off-duty officers at the schools at least on a rotating basis. They will not be certified School Resource Officers but the same type of officers who now provide security at sports and other events in the district.
He said he hopes to get enough participation so that each of the county’s nine elementary schools — and Waccamaw Intermediate — will have officers in the schools as much as possible. For the remainder of the year, the amount of time an officer will be in an elementary school will be based on the number of officers available.
"How many hours do you need a day? Some say we need them there 4-5 hours a day and that would be enough," Dozier said Tuesday night.
He said the endeavor is a “pretty significant investment” but one that he feels is important.
“I thought about it a lot over the holidays,” he said. The funds will come from money saved by not filling positions after personnel retire and/or from the district's reserves.
Dozier said he is hoping federal and state funds can be obtained to place a full time officer in each elementary school starting in August. That, however, is not a guarantee.
Dozier said he will be meeting with state lawmakers this spring and will be urging them to help with the funding not only for the additional officers but also for more guidance and mental health counselors.
Newly-elected board member Richard Kerr agreed it needs to be a joint effort. He said the safety of children should be a community endeavor.
"The community and state government should play a role," Kerr said.
Board member Arthur Lance said he supports guards at schools but he does not believe federal funds will be awarded to help pay for the officers in the future. He encouraged Dozier to lobby the state as hard as possible for funding.
Dozier said since the Newtown tragedy, he has been studying ways to try to make sure nothing like that happens here.
"It could be as simple as locking classroom doors," he said.
There are cameras in all schools which can be monitored not only by district officials but also by local law enforcement.
By Scott Harper
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