Commissioners approve hiring SRO for DCS elementary schools

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Davidson County logo

DAVIDSON COUNTY - Davidson County Schools are planning on adding seven additional School Resource Officers and it just received some start-up money from the county.

In addition to approving hiring the new SROs to cover 18 elementary schools in the district, the Davidson County Board of Commissioner's approved approximately $200,000 in contingency funding to supply patrol cars, uniforms, radios, firearms and other items.

Representatives with Davidson County Schools told commissioners during their meeting on Monday that the school district has received additional funding from a state-issued School Safety Grant which will pay for the salaries of these new SRO officers, but not equipment such as cars, uniforms or radios.

The school system needed the additional funding for equipment to proceed with the hiring of the new SRO officers in order to be assigned to the elementary schools for the 2023-2024 school year.

DCS representatives said there is an ironic twist to this grant that allows for the purchase of safety equipment for individual schools, such as surveillance cameras, electronic door locks and early warning systems, but not for the purchase of equipment for SRO officers.

“Safer Schools have specific guidelines that we can use these funds for. We can have the safety equipment that goes in the schools, we can use part of that grant for that, but specifically in our debrief about the funds, they said we cannot buy cars or equipment for our SROs,” said Johnston.

The county commissioners approved $199,822 in county contingency funds to the sheriff’s office capital outlay fund with $164,500 going toward the purchase of surplus vehicles from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and $35,322 will go for uniforms, radios and guns.

In 2018, the General Assembly worked with then-state Superintendent Mark Johnson to launch a new School Safety Grant Program to improve safety in public school units by providing grants for school resource officers, services for students in crisis, training to increase school safety, safety equipment in schools and additional school mental health support personnel.

In October, Davidson County Schools received a School Safety Grant of $1.6 million total for the next two school years. In previous years, the school system received closer to $900,000 to provide salaries and benefits for the seven SROs that work at the county middle schools.

With recent national school safety events, the state legislature increased the funding last year for this grant making it possible for Davidson County Schools to add SROs for its middle schools as well as to purchase safety equipment for individual schools.

The school system has separate funding sources for SROs at the high school level. With the addition of the seven new elementary SROs, the Davidson County School system will have a total of 21 officers district wide.

School representatives told the county commissioners that the school system also plan on using part of the Safe Schools grant to purchase surveillance cameras, advanced door locks with warning systems and similar safety equipment.

Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons said the department has been in numerous meetings with members of the Davidson County School Board and other staff to improve safety issues and to address recent concerns.

“We are working closely with our school board to make our schools safer. That’s what we want, bottom line that is what we are here for,” said Simmons. “We have had a lot of discussions and putting our heads together about what is the best technology out there to make these doors safer, to make our schools safer. To work smarter, not harder.

Members of the Davidson County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the hiring of the seven new SRO officers and the $200,000 in additional funding to purchase equipment for the officers, many noting that it was important to address safety concerns in our local schools.

“Anything we can do to keep our kids safe we need to do. This board is dedicated to our kids and our schools and their safety,” said Davidson County Commissioner Chris Elliott.

This article originally appeared on The Dispatch: Commissioners approve hiring SRO for DCS elementary schools