Murray County Schools to add school resource officers

·3 min read

Jun. 6—CHATSWORTH — Following the shooting deaths of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, "school safety has been the talk of everyone," and Murray County Schools officials have reevaluated the system's safety protocols, said Mike Pritchett, director of facilities and transportation.

"A lot of issues with school shootings are out of our control, but our schools are hardened up," and the school system is working with the Murray County Sheriff's Office and Chatsworth Police Department on "adding layers" of security, Pritchett said. For the 2022-23 school year, the half-time school resource officer (SRO) at Eton Elementary School will be full time, and "we're adding another SRO inside the (Chatsworth) city schools."

The other school without full-time SRO coverage — Bagley Middle School and Woodlawn Elementary School share a SRO, as the schools share a campus — is the prekindergarten center, but the SRO at Murray County High School (which is across the street) can respond to the prekindergarten building if necessary, Pritchett said. Additional SRO coverage will add roughly $54,000 to next year's budget for Murray County Schools, but there's "not a price (we wouldn't) pay" to save a life.

All of the schools in the system have secure vestibules where "you need to be buzzed in" to enter the rest of the school, Pritchett said. "We're also looking at latches" and other measures on classroom doors so a person can't have free reign once in a building.

SROs and other law enforcement are familiar with the layouts of the schools, and they have regular safety briefings and active shooter trainings, he said. In addition, the Chatsworth Police Department and Murray County Sheriff's Office have access to "master keys" to enter school buildings, so "they don't have to wait to be let in" by school personnel.

Both of those law enforcement agencies train officers "not to stand down; if a shooter is in school, they will go in and take that shooter out," he said. "That is how they train their officers, and that is what their officers will do."

Pritchett opposes arming teachers.

"I'm not going to put a gun in a teacher's hand. Too many things can happen," Pritchett said. "Their profession is education, not safety and security, and I don't want that responsibility thrown into their lap."

Preliminary Milestones data

Though administrators have access only to "preliminary results" from May's Georgia Milestones, early returns are very encouraging, said Barbie Kendrick, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Of 19 areas tested, students improved in 15, remained the same in three and decreased proficiency level in one.

More precise data — as well as state data for comparison — will be released later this summer, but based on the early returns, "we're very proud of our students, teachers and administrators," Kendrick said during Thursday's Murray County Board of Education work session. "Everyone worked hard to implement our program and stay the course."

"We've made tremendous strides across our system," said Superintendent Steve Loughridge.