Grant approval would add SRO at elementary schools

Council to vote Feb. 17
Feb. 13, 2014 @ 12:15 PM

City Council and Thomasville City Schools are finalizing a grant that will provide added security to two elementary schools.

Council on Feb. 17 will consider a contract with Thomasville City Schools to help fund a new school resource officer. TCS received a $41,360 grant from the state to help pay for the position, with the school system and the city providing matching funds totaling $18,940.

If approved, the school system and the city each will pay $9,470.

“Thomasville City Schools asked us to split the matching funds,” City Manager Kelly Craver said.

Thomasville High School and Thomasville Middle School each have a school resource officer. The new officer will oversee Thomasville Primary School and Liberty Drive Elementary, two campuses less than a half mile apart. The State Legislature last year awarded the school system a School Resource Officer grant, opening up funds for the new position.

Just how long the funds will be available, however, remains up in the air. Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin said it appears funding is secure for at least two years.

“We don't know what's going to happen after the second year,” said Pitre-Martin. “We're very wise at looking at our contracts one year at a time so if something should happen after the second year and we don't have the funding we may have to do something very different. We're looking at it this year and next and we'll see what happens.”

Craver said the legislation does not define a specific time frame for the term of the grant.

“From what I understand the grant will be ongoing, it's written in the state legislature as ongoing,” Craver said. “It's no different than any other grant program. It will be there as long as its there. It's no different than revolving loans for environmental work. These types of programs have been in effect for a long time. The legislature has a yeoman's task each year to balance the budget and often there are difficult decisions along the way. I don't know what those decisions are going to be.”

Should the grant funds go away, Craver said the position could be eliminated.

“What we will have to do is see if there are any openings currently in the department and if that were the case, hopefully we could slide that person over into a full-time position as a regular patrol officer,” said Craver. “If we didn't have an opening, that officer's position wouldn't be funded and would have to be laid off. That's a concern that we have.”

Craver feels SRO funding will remain a priority, especially as school systems continue to deal with the threat of violence on campus. A Winston-Salem elementary school on Monday was placed on lockdown and a Salisbury High School student on Tuesday was charged with shooting another student.

“These instances of school violence and weapons in schools is just an epidemic,” Craver said. “As long as we keep having problems like we've had [Monday] in Winston-Salem and other places in schools, I think the funding of SRO officers and additional SRO officers will be a priority with the legislature.”

City Council meets on the third Monday of every month at 7 p.m. on the third floor of TPD, 7 W. Guilford St.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.