School safety a priority in District One budget

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School Safety and security remains a priority for School District One for the upcoming school year.

During a work session Tuesday, the Anderson School District One Board of Trustees were presented five options to consider that increase armed security personnel in the District. Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler and Associate Superintendent David Havird presented information on current security personnel and options ranging from hiring additional School Resource Officers (SROs) to have a presence in all 14 schools to hiring security guards for elementary schools.

District One currently has four SROs employed by the district through the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and the Williamston Police Department.

Palmetto High and Palmetto Middle have one shared SRO (Williamston PD). Powdersville High and Wren High each have a SRO (ACSO). Wren Middle and Powdersville Middle share a resource officer (ACSO).

Currently, there are no security personnel at any of the eight elementary schools.

The first option, and the most favored, is to hire 10 SROs to cover all remaining District One schools. Cost would be $800,000 including start up costs for vehicles, uniforms and equipment which would be $200,000.

Havird said that if funding for the additional 10 SROs is not possible, he recommends adding $200,000 to the 2013-14 budget with a goal of acquiring enough additional SROs or security guards to have a visible law enforcement presence, on a daily basis, in all fourteen District One schools.

Option 2, which Havird said is the District preference, is to hire 2 SROs to cover all middle and high schools fulltime and hire one additional SRO to visit Hunt Meadows, Spearman, Concrete, West Pelzer and Cedar Grove Elementary schools.

Under this option, SROs at Wren, Powdersville and Palmetto Middle Schools could visit adjacent elementary schools.

According to Havird, this allows all high schools to be covered fulltime, middle schools to be covered most of the day and all elementary schools covered for approximately one to two hours each day. The cost for option two is $172,000.

The other three options were to hire two or three security guards to help cover elementary schools.

The security guard option is considerably less expensive than having school resource officers, according to Havird. The District has talked to two security firms and even considered constables, he said.

Security guards would have police and or military training and would be armed.

There was considerable discussion on the options.

Board member David Merritt said he would like to see security personnel at each of the elementary schools.

Following discussion, the consensus was to put $200,000 in the budget for additional security and to send a letter to the Anderson County School Board stating that the District supports any effort they may have to help fund additional security at schools throughout the county.

Havird said that District staff have already completed a first round of “violent intruder” training.

“We are trying to take a very serious minded approach. We are very serious about safety,” he told the Board.