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How Hall, Gainesville schools plan to spend $1 million each on new security measures
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A school resource officer at West Hall High School takes a position at the front of the school moments before students leave for the day in 2018. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall County and Gainesville City school systems are each allocating $1 million to beef up security in the wake of the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May that killed two teachers and 19 children. 

How will Gainesville City Schools use the money?

Gainesville City Schools will station an armed security guard at each of its nine schools. The security guards will have backgrounds in law enforcement, either active or retired. 

The school system will also hire a safety and security manager to centralize security operations. Up until now, the duties of security management have been split between Deputy Superintendent Priscilla Collins and Chief Operations Officer Adrian Niles. 

Superintendent Jeremy Williams said they plan to make all hires by Sept. 1. The school board will hear a first reading of a new security policy at the next meeting, Aug. 1 and aims to approve the policy at the Aug. 15 meeting. 

Attorneys are still working on the policy wording, Williams said, but it will allow the school system to designate which employees can be armed. He said only the new security guards, in addition to school resource officers, will be allowed to carry arms. 

Gainesville City Schools has a deputy from the city police department at each one of its schools, Niles said, and they are hiring two more.

How will Hall County Schools use the money?

The school system provided few details about how it will use the $1 million to improve security, citing safety concerns. 

The money will be used to “harden” targets and “further strengthen security,” said district spokesman Stan Lewis in an email. 

As for specifics, he said, “That information will not be for public consumption as we have every intention of doing our utmost to protect students and staff from those who may attempt to do us harm.” 

“We also intend to spend even more time planning, coordinating and training with the Hall County Emergency Management Agency, the Hall County Sheriff’s Department, and Hall County Fire and Rescue,” he said. 

Last week, he added, those three agencies met with school personnel to plan for an active shooter scenario.

In addition to working with the agencies mentioned, the school system will consult the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency “in order to build upon current plans, improve response time in the event of emergencies, and ensure the proper support is in place afterward,” Lewis said. 

He said they will also use the funds to better identify and support students who are struggling emotionally.

“The research is pretty clear that identifying and addressing mental health challenges early on is a key factor in protecting students and staff,” he said.