BY JAYMIE BAXLEY || Staff Writer
The Moore County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to support an effort expanding the school district’s police force over the next 18 months.
School officials hope to hire an additional 13 resource officers by May 2024, bringing its number of officers to 27. The added personnel will allow the district to assign at least one full-time officer to each of its 23 campuses.
“It’s certainly a priority for us to have a school resource officer in each of our schools,” Tim Locklair, superintendent of Moore County Schools, said in a presentation to the commissioners.
It is not yet clear how much money the county will be asked to put toward hiring the new officers, which is expected to cost about $800,000. Addressing the commissioners, county manager Wayne Vest noted that the school system is considering “several avenues of funding” that could affect the amount requested from the county.
On Monday, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Center for Safer Schools announced that Moore County had been awarded over $618,000 from the state-administered School Safety Grant Program. Funding from the program, which is also allocating $47,378 to Moore Montessori Community School, will be used to pay for “safety equipment, school resource officers, training and services for students in crisis,” according to a news release.
“I have five grandchildren living here in Moore County, so school safety is extremely important to me, and I am glad Moore County Schools will have additional resources to make our classrooms safer and more secure,” said state Rep. Jamie Boles, who was part of the Republican-led General Assembly that authorized the program’s creation in 2018.
Seth Powers, who previously oversaw the district’s police force as student support services director, said that in the past Moore County Schools has used funding from the grant to pay for up to four school resource officers. The grant pays for two-thirds of each position, with the district matching the remainder of the cost.
Part of the latest grant award, $220,000, is designated to fund six SRO positions under the same matching scheme. That part of the grant will automatically extend into 2023-2024 if the district doesn’t spend it all by the end of the current school year.
The grant also includes $287,000 to pay for safety-related equipment needs like the Active Defender school safety app, campus security systems and radios. Another $64,000 will support student mental health needs and $47,000 will go to staff training on crisis planning and recognizing students dealing with trauma.
In addition to the state grant, the Moore County Board of Education has identified nearly $563,000 in additional funding from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program to put toward the police expansion. The combination of state and federal money, Locklair said, “reduces the burden on our local costs.”
“We’re going to continue to explore all options that we have available to fund these programs, to fund equipment, to fund training and to fund the needs of our school police program.”
Locklair said the first new officers hired will be assigned to rural schools like Highfalls and Westmoore elementary, which are both currently served by the same officer.
“We’ve got six schools that are not within municipalities that we’re going to be prioritizing rolling those officers out in,” he said. “That’s going to be a commitment and priority to us.”
Following Locklair’s presentation, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution “supporting enhancing the school resource officer program.” The approval allows the school system to begin recruiting officers.
In addition to hiring new officers, the school system plans to consider raising existing officers’ salaries. The increased pay would be comparable to salaries offered by the Moore County Sheriff’s Office.
Moore County Schools currently spends just under $1.2 million annually on its police force, one of two in North Carolina controlled by a K-12 public school district.
Jaymie Baxley can be reached at (910) 693-2484 or email@example.com