By Kim West
When school resource officers reported for duty at 13 campuses last week, Limestone County Schools became the first county system statewide to provide SROs at every school site, according to school and law enforcement officials.
“When schools reported, all had school resource officers on hand, with 18 individuals that have completed the certification and training required by the state (and the Sheriff’s Office),” said Dr. Tom Sisk, superintendent of Limestone County Schools. “We want to thank the Sheriff’s Office and the county for helping make this possible.”
In a 2012-13 report by the Alabama Department of Education, the public school system had 67 county school systems among 134 total in a state that served 744,637 students.
Previously, the Limestone system and the County Commission teamed together to provide full-time SROs at the system’s six high schools — Ardmore, Clements, East Limestone, Elkmont, Tanner and West Limestone — and the Career Technical Center.
Beginning last week, the two entities also provided full-time SRO coverage at the system’s six standalone elementary schools — Blue Springs, Cedar Hill, Creekside, Johnson, Owens and Piney Chapel — through the use of part-time, retired law enforcement officers.
A primary SRO will be assigned to each elementary school as with the high schools, but the part-timers will not work outside the school year. Other part-time officers are available to fill in for the elementary officers to maintain their employment status. Retired officers with a pension from the Retirement Systems of Alabama cannot be paid more than $23,000 per year under state regulations.
The Sheriff’s Department requires all resource officers to have current certification from the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training and the National Association of School Resource Officers.
The county and school system split the $516,908 cost for the seven full-time SROs during fiscal 2013. Earlier this year, both entities approved an increase in funding for the new officers.
The county has budgeted $399,000 for fiscal 2014, while the school system has set aside $400,000. The total cost of the program includes pay, equipment, training and insurance.