Chairman: additional officers will be ready when students return - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Chairman: additional officers will be ready when students return in January

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) -Two dozen additional school resource officers should be ready by the first day of classes in 2013, according to New Hanover County Commissioner Chairman Woody White.

White said Thursday that there are two plans in the works. The first is a short-term strategy to cover the rest of the school year, and the second is a long-term plan that will layout procedures for the following years.

"We want to make sure that we simply don't react to a national tragedy and adopt the wrong policy," said White.

The short-term plan will call for the school board, the sheriff's office, the beach towns, the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County to share the costs of the 24 officers until June.

In the meantime, he said the local governments and agencies will have to prioritize their budgets to prepare for a comprehensive plan that will keep school children safe.

"We want to make sure we adopt the right policy that is one of safety and of conserving resources," he said. "And making sure we're spending dollars the best way we can."

School board members met Wednesday night with local law enforcement officials to talk about ways to keep children safe in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT.

Sheriff Ed McMahon called for an additional 24 officers to make sure every school on the district has a school resource officer.

Right now, there are school resource officers in every high school and middle school. Every high school has two SROs, and each middle school has one SRO.

But in elementary schools, there are two SROs that split time between all of the facilities.

McMahon wants that to change, and hopes to have an SRO assigned to every elementary school.

Right now, there are a total of 20 SROs assigned to schools.

McMahon said the county currently pays for the SRO program, which costs $470,380.

The school board unanimously voted at its special meeting Wednesday night to move forward with McMahon's recommendations. The county would have to approve the spending. McMahon anticipates it would cost more than $1 million to add the deputies.

School leaders also talked about current safety measures at schools. The district practices drills for lockdown situations at schools with members of the NHC Sheriff's Office.

These drills take place two times during the school year.

Additionally, the SWAT team practices efforts inside schools during summer break.

Each school has a security plan, which faculty members go over every month.

The school board voted Wednesday night to ask the county to consider adding 24 officers to the schools, and the county would have to approve spending and funding the plan.

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