Horry County Schools plans on spending more than $864,000 as part of a plan to put armed security guards in elementary schools next year.
The school district does not currently provide armed security in elementary schools.
“When the board agreed to put security guards in all the schools at reduced cost, myself and (Superintendent) Dr. (Rick) Maxey discussed the need to have them in all the schools,” said school board Chairman Joe DeFeo. “I wish we had done it years ago but this is where we’re at.”
The guards would be provided by U.S. Security Associates, the firm that already provides armed security for middle and high schools in unincorporated areas or Horry County.
Those schools were formerly patrolled by Horry County police before the county began asking for more money for the services and the school district decided to contract with the private firm instead.
The school board held a non-binding vote in favor of putting guards in elementary schools Monday night. The plan will require another vote of approval, but after Monday’s vote, Maxey directed U.S. Security Associates to recruit candidates in preparation for the plan’s final approval.
District spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said the plan would be rolled out phases, adding 14 officers within the school year at a cost of $208,656. DeFeo said the officers would be dispatched at random to some of the 27 different elementary schools.
Bourcier said the plan for the 2018-19 school year would cost cost $864,432 and include 27 officers to cover all elementary schools, one additional supervising officer and an officer at the school district’s headquarters.
DeFeo said that there hadn’t been any local incidents that sparked the board’s action.
“I think the incidents have been more nationwide incidents,” he said. “There has been nothing here locally that has touched off this desire. The best security you can have are armed security guards.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2013-14 school year, 48 people in the U.S. were killed in “school-associated violent deaths,” including 26 homicides and 20 suicides.
In general, people trying to get inside a school need someone on the inside to unlock the doors before they’re permitted on the premises, according to Bourcier.
“Every school I have ever went to in the past five years I have had to push a buzzer to get in,” said DeFeo.
“I personally believe without armed security guards, everything else falls short,” he said. “I personally believe the state should require it in all public schools. After all, they require sprinkler systems. This to me will do more to try and keep our kids safe than any sprinkler system in a modern day school.”
Thursday is the fifth anniversary of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting during which 26 were killed in Newtown, Connecticut.