CONWAY Horry County Schools has taken a step it believes is necessary in providing a safe learning environment for local elementary school students.
The school board unanimously approved a plan Monday that will send armed guards to each of the county’s 27 elementary schools.
According to Horry County Schools (HCS), guards will be provided by U.S. Security Associates, a firm already being used to provide security for middle and high schools in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“I have to go back to my original belief about police officers in schools. It’s not that they are there for ‘police enforcement’ and arresting students,” said Horry County school board chairman Joe DeFeo. “Although I know it is a need on occasion, I want officers in the schools first and foremost to keep students as safe and possible, and employees.
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“Having armed security in the schools, that is the main goal. And that is what we want.”
Elementary schools in Horry County currently are without an armed security presence on campus.
A phased deployment will begin within the next few weeks. It will cost the district $238,464.
“This approach enables a quicker initiation of this project and allows the regions to progress to a point where all schools are staffed with a full-time (school security officer),” said Daryl Brown, chief officer for support services at Horry County Schools.
A full rollout will begin during the 2018-19 school term, as 27 officers will be tasked with covering each of the county’s elementary schools. There will also be an additional supervising officer along with one at the Horry County School district office.
The total price tag for that comes out to $864,432, according to HCS.
According to DeFeo, the decision wasn’t precipitated by a certain catastrophe locally or elsewhere, for that matter.
“It sends a message that we are trying to keep our kids as safe as logically possible,” he said. “We spend countless dollars to keep our schools safe from fire. We put fire alarms in schools, but I don’t believe a child has been killed by fire in schools in 50 years.
“A child has more than 400 percent more chance of getting hurt or killed by an active shooter than by fire. We need to start spending the same resources. If it is about keeping children safe, then it doesn’t matter what we’re trying to keep them safe from. It’s just about keep our kids safe.”