ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. — School districts in North Carolina are getting the money they need from lawmakers to make schools safer.
After the Uvalde, Texas shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead, North Carolina’s General Assembly put more funding in the budget for low-income districts to hire and pay school resource officers.
Alexander County Schools is one of several local school districts to benefit from the new funding.
"Parents came to me and they said Dr. Hefner, what are you all doing to ensure that our schools are as safe as they can be?" Alexander County Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Hefner said.
Alexander County is designated low-income, calculated by a state formula.
This means funding for resource officers in all schools is hard to come by.
Currently, the district receives funding for one officer on the elementary level who splits their time between two schools.
"We needed a full-time officer in every school, because if nothing else, even a car sitting in a parking lot, I think would make someone second guess about what awaits them when they go through the door of a school," Hefner said.
North Carolina's new budget has nearly doubled the number of matching funds available for districts like Alexander County to hire SROs. The district can now hire officers to go to seven of its elementary schools.
The district will now receive $308,000 from the state Center for Safer Schools grant funding.
Two hundred other school districts and charter schools across North Carolina will receive more than $74.1 million in school safety grants announced by the Department of Public Instruction.
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"With everything going on across the nation, we just felt like that it's time to try to get a resource officer in every school in our county," Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman said.
To get officers in every school, the district and sheriff’s department still need about $750,000 in the first year from the county.
"These are new positions, and they will be sworn officers," Bowman said. "So they will need our equipment as uniforms, vehicles, weapons, everything."
After the first year, the county dollars needed will drop by about half to continue to help pay for the salaries and benefits of the officer for the two months school is not in session.
"Full-time officers, it does not promise that something bad would not happen, but it certainly helps deter bad things from happening in schools," Hefner said.
The district plans to ask the county commission for help at its next meeting Monday, Nov. 7th.
Contact Shamarria Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.