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School board runs into roadblocks on hiring of elementary resource officers

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday approved spending $35,000 to put resource officers in elementary schools.

After the deadly February shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the board set out to step up security measures at local schools — including working to get school resource officers in the district’s elementary schools.

In April, the board approved a maximum of $72,000 for off-duty officers to cover elementary schools while district administrators drew up a plan.

But according to April Khun, the school system’s chief legal officer, the staff had to wait to hear from the state before nailing down funding specifics.

On Aug. 3, the state Department of Public Instruction awarded school safety grants — including one to Rowan-Salisbury Schools. But even if RSS were to put a plan into motion immediately, the district and partnering law enforcement agencies would be unable to recruit, hire and place elementary school resource officers by the first day of school, Khun said.

The funding approved Monday would allow the district to continue paying off-duty officers to provide school security until resource officers can be placed.

“That will buy us some time to hire, train and put a plan in place to support our elementary schools,” she said.

There was some confusion among board members as to what the $35,000 will cover.

“My question is, why would we spend our money now when we just got money from the state?” asked Dean Hunter.

State grants come with strings attached, Khun explained, and can be used only to fund school resource officers — not off-duty officers.

“This is a stop gap measure,” Vice Chairwoman Susan Cox said. “The grant money would not be used to fund that stopgap measure.”

The state grant also brought other complications. According to Khun, the state did not award Rowan-Salisbury Schools enough money to fully implement its plan for elementary school resource officers. Currently, high school resource officers are fully funded by the state, and middle school resource officers are funded by a combination of state grants and local money.

The Aug. 3 grant will pay for middle school resource officers.

Khun and other administrators hoped they would receive enough money to cover the salaries of five to seven resource officers to be shared among the district’s 20 elementary schools.

“The grant money is not enough for us to do the plan we approved in the spring,” Superintendent Lynn Moody said.

It brings Rowan-Salisbury Schools back to the drawing board. Khun said she plans to talk to the law enforcement agencies that provide resource officers to local schools to come up with a creative solution. In the meantime, the $35,000 will buy a little breathing room.

Hunter made a motion to approve the request, and board member Alisha Byrd-Clark seconded it. The motion passed unanimously. Board Chairman Josh Wagner and member Richard Miller were absent.

In other business Monday, the board:

• Approved an easement with the N.C. State Employees’ Credit Union for a property off Bostian Road.

• Approved a $144,300 contract with LaFave Construction Co. for reconstruction of South Rowan High School’s JROTC rappel tower. The tower burned down in January. All construction costs will be covered by insurance.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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