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Here's how an agreement between Sheriff's Office, Board of Ed. will help keep schools safe
School shooting
The school district routinely participates in safety drills — like this one at West Forsyth High School (file photo).

During a recent work session, Forsyth County Commissioners approved items that are expected to lead to new hires for the sheriff’s office and fire department.

During the meeting on March 7, commissioners first approved adding six additional school resources officers for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office as part of a previously approved agreement between the FCSO and the Forsyth County Board of Education.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman said the agreement was approved in response to the May 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 victims were killed. The agreement would do away with having SROs cover multiple schools.

“The Board of Education and myself made the decision that we were not going to have only one or two at every high school, one at every school, but we’re no longer going to do joint campuses,” Freeman said. “We’re going to have one literally on every campus, even if there is a school across from another school.”

Freeman added that the Board of Education would fund the positions “in perpetuity” and any new SRO salaries would be paid half by the school system and half by the sheriff’s office.

“In other words, at some point, something could happen with that, but the continuation is intended,” Freeman said. “The contract is not for a one-year term. It gets renewed every year, but the Board of Education has made very clear their intent, as this board has to support public safety. This was an outcry after the last shooting that happened in Texas at an elementary school.”

The new officers are not expected to begin the roles until the summer and will bring the total number of SROs to 55.

Freeman said increasing the number of officers at schools has been a priority since he took office in 2017.

“When I took office, the school system paid $187,000 toward school resource officers,” he said. “They are now paying $2.6 million. We spend well over $4 million in our School Resource Officer program, so they have stepped up to fund roughly 50%.” 

Also for the FCSO, during Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved accepting the Bureau of Justice Assistance Byrne Discretionary Community Project Funding Grant for $157,000 to fund two clinician roles.

Commissioners also approved having FCSO apply for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency State Homeland Security Program/EOD K9 Maintenance grant for $3,000 and the 2024 Congressionally Directed Spending Fund for $250,000, which will go toward two existing deputy positions and a peer specialist for the Crisis Intervention Response Team.

No match was requested for any of the grants.

Along with new hires for the FCSO, commissioners approved giving Forsyth County Fire Department officials authorization to apply for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, Program Grant. There is also no match required for that grant.

“This will allow us to hire 12 firefighters for three years, and they will fully fund them,” Fire Chief Barry Head said.

Commissioners also approved a bid for $150,000 to Bennett Fire Products for Globe Turnout Gear for the fire department.