By GENE ESPY
Responding to recent school shootings in the national news, the Chattooga County Board of Education unanimously approved buying gun safes for all of its schools and adding deputies in all schools.
Those moves were made at the board’s meeting last week. Presently, resource officers are in Chattooga High School and Summerville Middle School.
The gun safes were donated to the school system anonymously.
The board and superintendent signed a Standard Operating Procedures contract with the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Department for the School Resource Officers, effective March 1.
The gun safes will be bolted to the floor and school resource officers (SRO) will be the only ones with the combination to open the safes, Superintendent Jimmy Lenderman said.
“We looked at several different safes,” Sheriff Mark Schrader said. “This one has six one-inch locking bolts. I feel that is adequate to secure it to the floor.”
The SROs have the weapons and they are not readily available inside the school so that is where the suggestion came from for putting them in the schools, Sheriff Schrader explained.
He added that Trion has had one in their SRO’s office for around four years.
“There are other safety measures we would like to do in that area,” Supt. Lenderman said. “We would like to have bulletproof glass and are still looking at it in certain areas of the schools.”
He added that these are just some of the measures the system is looking to implement.
“The sheriff’s department is best qualified to determine what type of weapon they will need,” Supt. Lenderman said, responding to a question from board member Larry Weesner.
The superintendent went on to talk about the length of some of the hallways at a couple of the schools and the need for a long weapon would be better than using a pistol.
“We need to have weapons that would enable them to stop a terrorist, that is why we are bringing these things to you,” Supt. Lenderman continued.
He added that this was just one measure of many planned.
The school resource officer addition in schools that don’t presently have officers will be coming from the budget. The cost for these extra officers is around $200,000.
“We have the funding, we have it set aside to fund the four additional officers . . .,” the superintendent said.
He said there would be six SROs that would be funded every year that will be in the budget for next year,” Supt. Lenderman said.
Sheriff Schrader said he is looking at making the combinations for the gun safes the same because sometimes they have a SRO take vacation or maybe out sick and have another SRO fill in for them at that school.
“That is our goal,” the sheriff added.
He added that he would prefer that the weapons stay inside and never taken out of the safe.