Ribbon cutting greets the pet memorial garden - petsitterbank

Ribbon cutting greets the pet memorial garden

School systems across the area are beneficiaries of nearly $75 million in funding from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Center for Safer Schools.

Additional resources for teacher/staff pay, mental health services, and more collaboration with local law enforcement can help increase the sense of security for students, parents, and the community, state leaders said.

Local school systems received varying amounts from the grant. Surry County School will receive $327,171, Mount Airy City Schools were awarded $64,420, and Elkin City Schools were awarded $36,666.

“Our public schools are community centers, cornerstones of our community and our democracy, where we bring all students together to live, learn, and lead.” Travis Reeves of Surry County Schools said at a 2021 ribbon cutting ceremony. “Our schools are dream centers that give our students and families hope for the future.”

Reeves said most of the funds coming to his system have been earmarked for additional School Resource Officers. What is not spent on adding to the SRO rosters may be used to enhance on campus security at schools across the system.

In budget funding requests earlier this year, Reeves identified the need to add a controlled access vestibule for campus visitors that directs guests through the front office as one of the best potential security measures.

He also noted all three high schools needed new telephone systems, intercoms, and fire alarm systems so when campus wide alerts are needed, they can be heard by everyone.

Some of these improvements have already been completed such as the case when county elementary schools completed extensive renovations in 2021.

The National Threat Assessment Center concluded last year that SROs play an important role in preventing school violence. The report said, “In nearly one-third of the cases, an SRO played a role in either reporting the plot or responding to a report made by someone else.”

According to a Duke University study, approximately 79% of North Carolina schools had school resource officers assigned on at least a rotating basis in 2021. However, since 19 students were killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas in May, the nation has found itself asking again how such an event can occur.

Questions have been asked to superintendents and local law enforcement about what can be done to protect children in terms of physical safety measures above the use of SROs.

Surry County’s board of commissioners asked Reeves after the Uvalde tragedy if a solution might be to add retired military or law enforcement, armed or otherwise, to the doorways of schools. That was not the solution he said, and the board engaged in a conversation about the simple things that could be done such as keeping doors closed and not propped open.

Generally being more aware of who is entering the campus and who can access the building itself may prevent another mass shooting and six o’clock news coverage of traumatized second graders sprinting from the schoolhouse.

“School safety is a top priority for the Department of Public Education as it is for students, families, educators – all of us,” State Superintendent of Public Education Catherine Truitt said in announcing the grant funding.

It goes without saying that safety is an essential condition for effective teaching and learning. The Center for Safer Schools did a great job ensuring that each applicant received as much funding as possible to meet that critical need.”

“The School Safety Grant enhances schools’ efforts to keep our students safe,” said Karen W. Fairley, executive director of the Center for Safer Schools. “We’re thankful that we had the funding available to distribute, and we know it will go to good use.”

Wide reach benefits

A total of $74.1 million will be distributed among 200 school districts and charter schools across the state and none were left out. The state announced that all the school districts and charter schools that applied for School Safety Grant funding for the 2022-23 school year received an award.

Yadkin County Schools were granted $581,216, Wilkes County $394,500, and Alleghany County will receive $96,331. Statewide, Stokes County was one of the biggest recipients of grant funding with their allotment being $1,611,000 ranking the sixth largest grant amount of the two hundred grant recipients.

Stokes finds itself in the mix with Johnston, Gaston, Davidson, and Dublin Counties as smaller, more rural, counties that received robust grant funding larger than that of counties with larger populations.

For comparison, Wake County received $659,867 and Winston-Salem Forsyth County $741,470. Of the $74.1 million in grants, only Buncombe County ($5.91 million) and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ($2.89 million) received larger grants than Stokes County.

Since 2018 the School Safety Grant Program has distributed more than $120 million to school systems across the state. The aim has been to improve safety in public schools by providing grants for school resource officers, services for students in crisis, training to increase school safety, safety equipment in schools and additional school mental health support personnel.

gov. Roy Cooper said the state has a role to play in increasing safety for students during budget negotiations. He felt that spending more on school safety was a winning proposition for all parties, “That’s what it is, investment in our children and our public schools, the people who teach them, the staff who are around them.”

“We want to prevent violent events from happening to start with,” Cooper said. “When you look at what our Constitution requires, a sound basic education for all children. Their mental health, their safety is all a part of that.”

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