Jun. 11—LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County will hire seven more school resource officers next school year and employ enhanced security entrance systems in schools across the district.
The district will employ the school resource officers on a full-time basis and cover their salary and benefits at a total cost of $455,000, according to a press release from the school district. The Robeson County Sheriff's Office will cover all other necessary expenses, such as their vehicle, uniform, and firearm.
Six school resource officers will split time covering multiple elementary schools. An additional School Resource Officer will be placed at Purnell Swett High School, bringing the high school's total to three. The third officer will be added because of increasing enrollment at the high school.
As cases of gun violence across the nation have increased in the past months, district leaders believe the added measures are necessary to protect students and staff within the Public Schools of Robeson County.
"We recognize that the recent tragedies that occurred have brought the issue of school safety to the forefront of everyone's mind. We want to ensure our parents and stakeholders that the Public Schools of Robeson County is a safe place for students to learn and grow," said Superintendent Freddie Williamson.
"Hiring additional School Resource Officers and ensuring that all of our schools have proper security and surveillance measures are simple solutions to let our parents know that their student will be safe when they walk in our school buildings," Williamson added.
The need to hire more SROs has been discussed for years, according to Gordon Burnette, PSRC's chief Communication officer.
"Thanks to ESSER funds, we now have adequate funding within our financial budget to support such an initiative. It is a large investment into our district, but you can't put a price tag on providing our students the safe learning environment they deserve," Burnette said.
The National Association of School Resource Officers suggests that school districts have one SRO per every 1,000 students.
The Public Schools of Robeson County will have 31 School Resource Officers for approximately 20,500 students after the additional officers are hired.
"The goals of well-founded SRO programs include providing safe learning environments in our nation's school, providing valuable resources to school staff members, fostering positive relationships with youth, developing strategies to resolve programs affecting youth and protecting all students so that they can reach their fullest potentials," according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Enhanced security systems
The Public Schools of Robeson County also is placing an enhanced focus on school safety by providing security equipment across the district which includes video surveillance systems and "buzzer" entrance systems at all schools.
The systems will help secure all buildings and allow office personnel the ability to view campus access points at all times.
Some new systems will be purchased, while the existing security equipment at other schools within the district was considered to be in good working order after a thorough inspection by the PSRC Technology Department.
"As district leaders, our responsibility is to provide our students with an environment that is safe and conducive to learning," said Bobby Locklear, assistant superintendent for Auxiliary Services.