There has been an increased police presence at Georgetown County schools this week, but it was planned before Friday’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut.
School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier said he spoke with Georgetown County Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver last week about having additional officers on hand this week because of increased activities at the schools.
Because of the holidays, many schools — especially in the elementary grades — are having parties and special presentations before winter break begins this afternoon.
“We will have a lot of visitors on the campuses,” Dozier said Monday.
He said the plans are to keep the extra security for the three days school is in session this week and for a couple of weeks after classes resume in January.
Currently, every middle and high school in the district has a police officer or deputy on campus at all times. However, there are no school resource officers in elementary schools.
In the wake of the shootings that killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn,, Dozier said he plans to begin talks with the school board and local law enforcement agencies to see what can be done on the elementary level.
Weaver, when asked Monday if he sees a time when there will be SROs in elementary schools, said that is a decision that will have to be made jointly by the community, the school district and law enforcement agencies.
He said deputies are on patrol every day and make routine visits to the elementary schools.
The Georgetown Times submitted other school security-related questions to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Cuthbertson.
“At this time, we will not respond to these questions,” was the reply.
Dozier said there is an officer in Andrews — where the high, middle and elementary schools are on the same campus — who patrols all three buildings during the day. It is the only place in the county where all grade levels share a campus.
Middle and high schools share campuses in Georgetown and Carvers Bay while the middle and intermediate school are in the same place on the Waccamaw Neck.
We asked Georgetown Times readers what steps they feel need to be taken to make schools — especially in the elementary grades — safer for students, staff and visitors.
One of the most popular suggestions was to place an officer in each of the county’s nine elementary schools as well as Waccamaw Intermediate.
To do that would cost an estimated $500,000 annually, according to School District spokesman Ray White.
“It’s not just the salaries. There are associated costs such as benefits,” he said.
Reader April Welch suggests using retired veterans for elementary school security.
“Most of us will gladly do it for free,” she wrote.
Linda Moore, another reader, suggested placing bullet proof glass in every window of the schools.
While replacing windows with bullet proof glass is possible, it would be a very expensive undertaking, according to a local glass expert.
Gene Baker, owner of Baker’s Glass and Mirror, said there are various types and levels of bullet proof glass. Not only would the glass that is currently in all the windows have to be replaced, bullet proof windows require special framework, which would add to the cost.
Johnathan Guiles, a former SRO, said one problem is that school officers are not informed when a new student begins attending a school.
“Alert the SRO before new students arrives at the school … This would (give) the SRO a chance to call his/her school to get additonal information from that SRO. Our school system should be allowed to deny students who had serious issues at other schools, gangs, etc. Moving kids to another school rarely solves the problem, it only shifts it to another school district,” Guiles wrote.
Scott Blaylock says all schools need two exits in each class room.
“Also all future schools need to have mandatory fire and bullet resistant panic rooms in each class,” he wrote.
School Board chairman Jim Dumm said the board will be relying on Dozier to relay any security issues that need to be addressed.
He said if it is not policy already, he wants to make it a rule that every classroom door remains locked while class is in session each day.
By Scott Harper
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