The issue of resource officers in elementary schools came up at a recent meeting between the Gainesville police and local school governance councils.
At the Sept. 30 meeting, Gainesville High Principal LaCrisia Larkin asked if it was possible to add more officers in the lower-level schools so school resource officers would be able to spend more time at their particular schools.
Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly said that’s not a possibility right now.
“We’d always love to be able to do that,” Kelly replied, adding it could happen in the future.
Gainesville Police Department officials met with school governance councils Monday to discuss placing high-powered rifles for resource officers in Gainesville High, Gainesville Middle and Wood’s Mill Academy.
“Of course, last year, all of us remember in the media when there was the Sandy Hook school shooting up in the Northeast,” Kelly said at Monday’s meeting.
After the Newtown, Conn., shooting Dec. 14 left 26 elementary school students and teachers dead, the police department began evaluating how school resource officers could best respond in a similar situation.
One proposal has been to place one gun in the each of the three upper-level schools. The guns would be placed in safes inside each school resource officer’s room. They would only be accessible via officers’ fingerprints.
Another idea is for an officer to take the rifle with him if he is not on campus. The weapon then would be locked securely inside the patrol vehicle.
“There’s definitely discussions I would like to enter in with the school board ... to be able to possibly look at increasing our school resource officers,” Kelly said. “We only do have three, and they have to cover numerous schools in the city.”
However, he said the current budget and limited personnel prohibit that option.
“That’s something, as the city continues to grow and our student population continues to grow, I think we’re definitely going to have to look at that,” Kelly said.
In the Gainesville system, the three resource officers are responsible for all schools, but their offices are located at the three campuses. Elementary schools do not have full-time resource officers assigned to them.
There are 12 total resource officers in Hall County, assigned to the middle and high schools.
The county has had sheriff’s deputies use all schools as sites to file paperwork, relax for a few minutes and hang out with employees and students.
“We are extremely happy with our patrol coverage,” said Lt. Earl Roach, safety coordinator for the school system. “This has become part of their routine patrol. They have done an extraordinary job.”
He said that adding resource officers to elementary schools is not a topic right now.