All Sullivan school campuses to have SROs by end of February

Rick Wagner • Jan 2, 2019 at 9:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — New school resource officers are either on the job or are being trained and will be in place “by the end of February,” Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said recently.

During a Nov. 29 Board of Education retreat, Rafalowski told the school board that some of the 14 new SROs are existing Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office employees, while others came from law enforcement in Bristol, Tennessee, Kingsport, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the FBI.

The County Commission and school board jointly funded the hiring of additional SROs for the school system, giving the system one SRO on every campus. For instance, Blountville Middle and Elementary schools, located next to each other, will have one SRO, as would Sullivan Gardens K-8, an elementary and middle school, and Sullivan North High/Middle schools, which also are housed in the same building.

“Some are former students, and it’s wonderful to see them and know they will be in our buildings,” Rafalowski said.

The commission in September authorized spending about $1 million to hire 14 SROs, adding to the four SROs already at the four county high schools: Sullivan South, North, Central and East. The recurring cost will be more than $700,000. The commission and the school board are splitting the operational costs, with the school system’s annual share about $350,000.

Also at the retreat, Karen Nave, who oversees safety, technology and communications for the school system, said it continues to have safety drills and work with emergency responders on tabletop exercises to prepare for school security issues that could occur.

She and Rafalowski said school safety is a major matter addressed in the construction of the new Sullivan East Middle School, tentatively scheduled to open in January 2020, and West Ridge High School, tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

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