FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Franklin County Public Schools will be back in the classroom on Wednesday and students can expect some new faces in the halls.
The Franklin County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved funding to add six additional school resource officer positions.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of filling the positions and they already have the officers ready to get to work on Wednesday.
Sheriff Bill Overton said he believes his team has been ready for this change.
“I’m excited. I’m grateful for the decision that they made. We had planned for this, thinking that this would be their decision so we’re ready to move to meet what we need to do on Wednesday as school starts,” Overton said.
Ronnie Thompson, Chairman of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, also said he believed this decision was a long time coming.
“I’m tickled … it’s something that’s long overdue for our kids, for the safety of our children,” Thompson said.
Franklin County applied for a grant that would allocate $560,970 to school resource officer positions. The grant would cover the funds fully in year one. However, in years two through four, the county would pick up 40% of the fund, which is about $224,000. In year five, the locality would have to fund the total cost.
Supervisor Lorie Smith expressed her concern about the ability to fund the projects in the later years, and Chairman Thompson said he knows his team has a lot to consider in future budgets to help continue funding the positions.
“At the end, it’s going to be a tremendous bill that the county will have to … will assume. And we’ll have to figure out ways to do that,” Thompson said.
The chairman did say he believes the taxpayers will appreciate their money going to keeping kids safe in schools.
Another concern of the board was staffing issues already within the Sheriff’s Department.
Currently, the office is expecting to be short four positions later this year.
Five of the staff currently would be put into these school resource officer positions. The department hired one employee specifically for the position to make six total resource officers.
The department said despite staffing issues, both the county and the schools will be served.
“I think that was a great question … to express to the citizens of Franklin County, we would not be doing anything we think would jeopardize the safety of our citizens. We believe we can do this, can accomplish it,” Overton said. “It’s going to be some challenges. But we think we can work through them and our personnel is ready because they know this is very important for us.”
Starting Wednesday, there will be two county resource officers at Franklin County High School, one county resource officer at Franklin County Middle School, and the six additional officers will look over the 12 elementary schools in the area.
The county hopes to eventually have an officer in each of the schools, including one supervising position, totaling 15 total school resource officers.