GATE CITY — Scott County Public Schools hired two new resource officers recently with the help of state grant funds to provide additional security for its 10 elementary campuses.
The new positions, which went into effect July 1, are being funded with a $75,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and bring the school system’s total number of resource officers to five.
The county’s portion of the funding, which totals 10 percent the first year, will be split by the school system and the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.
The two additional resource officers will split their duties between the county’s 10 elementary schools, while the original officers will keep their high school assignments.
“We have three that already work the high schools, but we have 10 other middle and elementary schools,” Scott County Sheriff John Puckett said. “So, they’re going to split them up and let each one of them take five schools. Then they’ll go one day a week to each of the schools.”
Puckett said the new schedule would greatly increase the number of visits resource officers make to the elementary campuses.
“Before, you could only go about once a month to the elementary schools,” Puckett said. “Now, you’re going to be at those schools four times as much, so that will help out a lot. Also, if they have a problem, these resource officers can handle it without pulling an officer out of a high school.”
Scott County Superintendent John Ferguson said he welcomed the additional security the new officers would provide.
“This is just an extra blanket of security to have,” Ferguson said. “A lot of times with the little ones, they’ll see the person as someone who is there for their benefit. It’s someone there they can speak and relate to and ask questions of, if needed.
“And having the person available there in uniform can make a world of difference in other ways too. We don’t want an adult coming in and being angry or whatever it is at the time, and having the officer there can help deter that.”
The only downside to the positions, Ferguson said, is that they are only guaranteed for one year.
After that, the school system and sheriff’s office must pay an increasing portion of the officers’ salary for the next three years. In the final year of the grant, the county would be responsible for covering 75 percent of the salaries.
Still, Ferguson said he hoped to keep the positions for as long as funding is available.
“If we continue with this grant, that’s what we’re hoping for, but for sure we’ll have them for one year anyway,” Ferguson said. “It will be of benefit to the school system to have the additional resource officers on hand. There’s no doubt about that.”