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No details, but 'everything is on the table' for Hall Schools' security upgrade
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Zack Marley, school resource officer at West Hall High School, takes a position at the front of the school moments before students leave for the day Monday, Aug. 27, 2018. - photo by Scott Rogers

Details are still scant as to how Hall County Schools will spend $1 million on additional security measures following a statement Wednesday from Superintendent Will Schofield.

Schofield said school security is much more about school culture, mental health support and staff training than it is about infrastructure and equipment.

“We know too much about previous school tragedies to believe that armed personnel, metal detectors and razor wire are a sufficient and appropriate response,” he said. “Our students have been through much chaos in recent years and are experiencing record levels of anxiety; our schools should be a haven of safety and welcome.” 

Schofield’s statement comes two days after the school board approved $1 million in funding for additional security measures. Officials have since declined to provide details, citing safety concerns. 

Gainesville City Schools also approved $1 million in security funding on Monday. It will be used to hire armed guards at every school and a security manager who will serve to centralize security operations. 

Hall County spokesman Stan Lewis said in an email Tuesday that Hall County Schools would “harden” targets, review their plans and further collaborate with local law enforcement and other security agencies. But he and other officials have declined to say much else, again citing safety concerns. 

Lewis noted that they are still in the planning stages.

Hall County school board member Mark Pettitt said over text Wednesday, “While I’m limited in what I can disclose regarding school safety plans, I would personally support an expansion of the (school resource officer) program to include elementary schools.” 

In Hall, sheriff’s deputies (school resource officers) are stationed at every middle and high school, and while they may patrol elementary schools from time to time, there are no permanent SROs at elementary schools.

After the school shooting in Uvalde in May, Schofield said the millions it would cost to hire SROs at each of their 20 elementary schools didn’t make a lot of sense

He said over text late Wednesday afternoon, “Everything is on the table,” but added that no final decisions have been made. He said they estimate it would cost $3-4 million to hire SROs at every elementary school. 

“That cost is the equivalent of hiring 30 teachers and/or counselors,” he added.