DeSoto County Schools (DCS) moved ahead last week and took another step in addressing school safety and security issues on its campuses.
The DCS school board adopted contract agreements with the cities of Hernando, Southaven, Horn Lake and Olive Branch, along with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department, for School Resource Officers, or SROs.
Addressing the need for a consistent officer presence in schools has been a high priority for the district and for local governmental bodies.
Last week on Monday, Sheriff Bill Rasco discussed with the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors the SRO situation and stated his department was four short of having officers at all of the schools in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Rasco said he had funding in the current year budget to hire the additional officers and asked for $291,000 in next year’s budget to continue paying them past the start of the new fiscal year in October.
Supervisors agreed to Rasco’s request to fund the four positions, adding that SROs were a priority for the county and the Sheriff’s Department in the current year budget.
Thursday, the DCS school board moved ahead on agreements with city and county governments for coverage during the upcoming school year that starts next month.
Supt. Cory Uselton later said the district has in its budget money for more police and deputy presence in its schools.
“The board members and I have budgeted in our 2019-2020 budget to add an additional officer for the upcoming school year in each of the municipalities and the Sheriff’s Department,” Uselton said. “It’s actually two additional officers because we did the same thing last year. We want everyone to know that in each municipality and in the county that we will have two additional officers in each of those areas compared to the 2017-18 school year. That’ll be money that we will be giving to each of those municipalities.”
Uselton said he is in favor of the officer coverage in the schools because it enhances school safety and offers immediate response should a situation arise at the district attendance centers.
“In my opinion, just having that police officer there is very proactive in cutting down problems during the day,” Uselton explained. “But also, if something were to ever occur, we have that police officer on that campus who can react right away to the escalating situation.”
Board members Thursday also heard from district Physical Plant Director Jerry White on summer construction projects in the school district. Many of the projects are complete or very near completion, White said, adding anything left to do should be finished in time for the start of classes on Aug. 7.
“Our team does a great job of monitoring those projects throughout the spring and summer months,” Uselton said after the meeting. “It appears that all of the projects are on pace to be completed right before school starts. We’re excited about those projects to relieve some overcrowding on those elementary campuses.”
The work includes classroom additions at Oak Grove Central Elementary School, Hernando Elementary School, Lewisburg Primary School and Lewisburg Elementary School. Oak Grove Central will receive two additional classrooms, Hernando Elementary will receive four additional classrooms, Lewisburg Primary will receive two additional classrooms and Lewisburg Elementary will receive four additional classrooms. Other summer projects in the district include HVAC, flooring, windows and LED lighting.
The total cost of the work being done this summer is about $3.6 million, according to district officials.
At Thursday’s meeting, the school board also moved ahead with bids for cleaning and paper supplies and high school geography textbooks. A playground replacement and installation request from Pleasant Hill Elementary School was also approved.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.