When school starts on Friday, armed police officers will be on campus at each school in the Coffee County School System. The board of education took care of that at its most recent meeting, approving a resolution that allows the system to employ post certified officers by contracting with individual officers, private firms, or existing law enforcement agencies.
The resolution also allows for the creation of a Department of Safety within the school system. What that will eventually entail remains up in the air; however, it gives the system the option of creating its own police force – something systems in larger communities have done.
Speaking with DouglasNow.com after the meeting, Dr. Morris Leis, school superintendent, stated that at least for the opening of school, the measures the system took at the end of last year will once again be in place. When school closed in May, the system had school resource officers in place at the middle school, ninth grade academy, high school, and alternative school. The SRO program is something the school system has been doing for a number of years.
The elementary schools are a different story.
The year ended armed officers in all elementary schools. The school system contracted with the sheriff’s office and the police departments in Douglas, Broxton, Nicholls and Ambrose to staff those positions. “We basically paid them an overtime rate to work in the schools. That’s not a long-term solution. We want to bring that more in line with regular daily pay,” stated Dr. Leis. “This resolution will help us establish a long-term solution to putting armed officers in all our schools.”
It’s not going to be cheap, either. The system has budgeted $250,000 this year for school security. If the system decides to hire a school safety director, the funds will be used to pay and equip that person’s position. It would also mean that a post certified law enforcement officer will be employed full-time by the school system. “That person would organize the effort in all eight elementary schools and work with sheriff’s office on the SRO program. We’re not sure if we are going to go in that direction just yet,” said Dr. Leis.
No matter what the Coffee County School System eventually does, the important thing to know is that on Friday, Aug. 10, there will be armed post certified law enforcement officers on each campus in the school system. “We’re one community and one Coffee and we have to come together and work together to have safe schools. This formally allows us to do that,” stated Dr. Leis.
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