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Local school districts receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from state for school safety
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Gainesville Police Sgt. Chris Jones, center, and Officer Griggs Wall chat with Gainesville High School senior Hector Becerril Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, as students begin leaving school for the day. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s deadly shooting in Florida, Gainesville City School System Superintendent Jeremy Williams said, “As a district, we are discussing and reviewing our safety plans, as we do annually.” - photo by Scott Rogers

The state is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into local school districts to help improve safety for students on campus, including $215,000 for Hall County and $81,000 for Gainesville.

In the aftermath of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February, the deadliest in America in five years, Georgia legislators approved $16 million for public schools to improve security.

It also launched committees in the House and Senate to review school safety and make recommendations about potential funding needs, training resources and how to improve coordination among law enforcement, government and local schools to reduce risk and respond quickly to emergencies.

Hall County has already budgeted about $300,000 this spring to add silent alarms and other security measures to all its schools, according to Superintendent Will Schofield.

The district will also add new security monitors at schools, as well as equip resource officers with new stun guns.

Meanwhile, the Gainesville City School System has already added a fifth school resource officer this spring.

The state has made $16 million in bond funding available for schools to enhance security through improvements to facilities, such as security doors, monitoring equipment and other safety resources.

Bond funding cannot be used for salary or other personnel expenditures, or for ongoing operational costs.

School districts must make the initial purchases and then apply for reimbursement.

Every local school district receives a base amount of $25,000, and the remaining $11.5 million is allocated based on the amount of students enrolled in each district.

The Buford City Schools will receive $57,832, for example, and Dawson County will receive $47,940.

“It’s our absolute first priority at the state level to make sure students have a safe, secure place to learn,” state School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a press release this week. “School leaders in Georgia, in partnership with law enforcement and emergency management agencies, are doing great work to keep students safe, and I know these funds will help them go even further to improve school security.”

Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson, who attended and spoke at the first House study committee meeting last month, said that his agency has a good working relationship with local schools, “but we also have some obstacles we need to address.”

These include the need to add school resource officers, as well as securing additional funding from the state going forward.

Forsyth County will receive almost $346,000 from the state.

Superintendent Jeff Bearden and Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman commissioned a School Safety Task Force that released its recommendations in April on how to better secure schools from shooting threats. These include additional staffing to work with at-risk students and adding a second, armed resource officer to each high school.

In May, Bearden allocated $5 million in a bond referendum for school safety, giving the district about $7 million in total financing for school safety facility improvements.

“This additional revenue allows us to add the positions our task force has identified without having to increase our millage rate,” Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the school district, said.

School system: total grant allocation; student enrollment

Hall County: $215,008; 28,375

Gainesville: $81,278; 8,404

Forsyth County: $345,740; 47,898

Buford: $57,832; 4,903

Gwinnett County: $1,259,411; 184,342

Dawson County: $47,940; 3,426

Habersham County: $71,144; 6,891

White County: $50,406; 3,794

Lumpkin County: $50,837; 3,858

Jefferson: $49,489; 3,657