The Wilkes County Schools are getting two more school resource officers, in addition to one apiece for each Wilkes middle school funded in this year’s county budget and the four in the high schools.
In their Sept. 18 meeting, the Wilkes County commissioners unanimously approved a budget amendment appropriating $33,334 as the county’s match to a $66,667 grant from the state for the two new school resource officers.
Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew said in an interview that with the two newest SRO positions, the sheriff’s office will have two SROs available to fill in when SROs assigned to particular high schools or middle schools must be in court, in training or away for some other reason.
Shew said they also will be able to spend more time at Wilkes elementary schools than previously was possible. Lt. Jana Hayes, longtime Wilkes Central SRO, is the SRO supervisor and is filling one of the two roving positions.
Local officials initially thought the state was providing funds toward only one additional SRO position instead of two.
“We need them (SROs), but it’s hard to afford them…. We need to make the school system safer and lessen the chances of any incident in the schools happening,” said Gary Blevins, chairman of the commissioners.
“We have over 9,000 students out there in the schools every day. We need law enforcement out there with them and protecting them from harm.”
Blevins noted that county government funded four additional SROs—one apiece in each of the four middle schools—with $298,927 in the fiscal 2018-19 county budget. There already were four SROs—one apiece in East Wilkes, West Wilkes, North Wilkes and Wilkes Central high schools.
School resource offices are uniformed Wilkes Sheriff’s Office deputies working fulltime to provide security in the Wilkes schools.
“We got a little bit of money from the state,” said Blevins about the grant the commissioners agreed to match. “We need more and I wish they would send it. I think maybe next year they will. That’s what I’m hearing.”
Vice Chairman Eddie Settle made the motion to approve accepting the state grant and funding the local match.
Blevins asked Wilkes Sheriff Chis Shew, who attended the meeting, when all six new SROs would be on duty. Shew said Oct. 1.
“So, we’ve gone from four to 10 (SROs) in one school year,” said the chairman.
Also during the Sept. 18 meeting, the commissioners approved receiving a $10,410 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grant for purchasing five tactical ballistic shields for placement in Wilkes schools for use in an active shooter situation.
No local match was required for the grant.