PICKENS COUNTY—A proposal to add 16 new school resource officers (SROs) to elementary schools in Pickens County has not—as of yet—taken shape in the annual School District of Pickens County budget.
The school board has hosted a couple of workshops on the topic, but district officials say an extra 700,000 in funds may not be there.
“At this time, we do not have them in our budget for next year,” Pickens County Superintendent Kelly Pew said. “With a cost of $700,000, we do not have the additional revenue to pay for additional SROs. We will continue with the SROs we have.”
School Board Trustee Ben Trotter, who organized school safety talks with local authorities, said he’s not ready to drop the issue.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that new SROs cannot be funded,” Trotter said. “We’re just now getting into the budget process and it will depend on a few things, including what the state is going to do.”
Trotter said the safety of students should be considered during all budget talks.
“Are there other things that can be scaled back in order to do this? We don’t know that yet,” Trotter said. “It’s all kind of up in the air. We won’t know until we get all of our figures together. I would think that safety should be first. There’s not much money around for anything, so we’ll have to see what everybody else does to see what we can work out.”
The push for more security comes a few months after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut took the lives of 26 students and faculty. Trotter said the time for discussion is now.
“We pray that nothing like this will ever happen in Pickens County schools, but we do not know,” Trotter said. “What are we going to do next week, next month, next year if something like this happens and we know we sat back on our backside and did absolutely nothing? If we lose one child or one teacher, that’s too many.”
The safety talks have been met with concerns from some local police officials.
“This topic is in the news and it’s emotional,” Easley Police Captain Tim Tollison said. “When it all calms down, who is going to lose their job? Is it going to be a teacher or police officer?”
Trotter argues that a price cannot be placed on proper safety.
“We cannot replace our children with what it would cost us to put officers in there,” Trotter said. “Do we need to talk about this more? Yes we do. There has to be something we can do.”
Trotter said he hopes the school district can find a way to work with local police in the effort.
“I think this is a topic that is on everybody’s mind,” Trotter said. “These are Pickens County children. They need the protection of the school district. They need the protection of the police department. Our main goal is to educate our children, and our law enforcement’s job is to protect our children. I do believe we can work together at minimum cost to each party if everybody steps up.”
“We haven’t given up on it,” Trotter said. “We’ve just not had much success yet.”