The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education approved three security contracts for the new school year during its meeting on Tuesday night. Those include agreements with local law enforcement agencies to provide school resource officers.
Superintendent Angela Hairston recommended that the Board approve SRO contracts with the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office and the Kernersville Police Department. The measure passed with a unanimous vote, and comes at a cost of more than $2 million, paying for 21 SROs.
Some people who spoke during the public comment period say the money should go toward technology, more school nurses, and counselors instead.
Tricia McManus is the district's Deputy Superintendent. She says SROs are providing coverage at meal pickup sites, remote learning centers, and Wi-Fi bus locations.
“The purpose of this is to provide an extra layer of protections for our families who are utilizing and taking advantage of these services," she says. "But more important than that, it's allowing them to build and strengthen their relationships with our students, families, and community while they are out in the field.”
The district says overall, it has reduced this year's SRO budget by more than $1.5 million.
"We are trying to scale back," says Malishai “Shai” Woodbury, chair of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. "I think we need to think differently about how we secure schools, and the community is saying, 'We are in COVID, so why do we need so many SRO officers?'"
Woodbury says those cuts are a result of fewer positions as the city's police department transitions out of the program and reducing the sheriff's department contract.
The school board also approved a contract for around $58,000 with North State Security Group to help with night patrols and services at administrative sites and other buildings.
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