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Security plan outlined for local schools

Plans are being made in an attempt to make schools safer in Warren County in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, including a call for uniformed officers on each campus.
“We had been actively working on security issues even before Sandy Hook happened,” Director of Schools Bobby Cox said during a discussion on school security at Thursday night’s School Board meeting.
The list is three-fold when it comes to the initial plan.
“We need to put more layers between people on the outside and the people on the inside,” Cox said, noting it will begin with magnetic locks and camera systems for all schools.
“This will enable all outside doors to be locked during the school day and anyone entering the buildings will have to be allowed in by school staff or have a secure pass,” Cox said in his security proposal.
The cost for the locking systems, Cox noted, will range according to what type is chosen. A regular key card entry will cost $1,200 per door. A system which scans a fingerprint will cost $2,500 per door.
Given the fact the school system’s money is already budgeted this year, Cox said schools will have to ask the Warren County Commission to make appropriations if the upgrades are to be done.
As for the idea of school resource officers in each school, Cox said that is something that has to be explored as many other Tennessee counties are already on board. Cox pointed out Wilson County passed the idea of having an SRO in every school by a count of 23-1. Officials in Wilson County estimate it will cost $40,000 for each officer.
However, even if funding for the SROs was found tomorrow, it would not be an immediate addition.
SRO Jarvis Johnson was present at the meeting and explained each SRO must undergo a 10-week police academy and then 40 hours of SRO training.
Johnson is one of three SROs who work at the WCHS campus, splitting their duties directing traffic and working the Hickory Creek campus. The traffic, the officers say, splits their attention when it comes to enforcement on campus during morning and afternoon hours.
Johnson said if the school could have either teachers or hired personnel direct traffic, that would give them the ability to better patrol the campus when trouble most regularly happens – that being at the end of the school day.
While pledging to look into having traffic worked independently from the SROs, the School Board also agreed to seek any state financial help that may become available in helping pay for additional SROs.
School Board member Jeff Lee interjected that along with paying the SROs there would be other costs associated with having an officer in each school.
“There’s a lot more than just hiring them,” Lee declared. “There’s also the costs of cars, equipping and training.”
School Board chairman Bill Zechman said he hopes the County Commission can find money to institute the security measures needed.
“We don’t just want to do this in the excitement of the moment,” Zechman said of the SROs. “This needs to be a permanent thing.”
In addition to asking the county for funding, the School Board approved the idea of training courses for each of the county’s schools when it comes to emergency procedures. Those will begin the first of February.

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