Shortly after the sheriff’s announcement, Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo has also announced the establishment of a school safety and security ad hoc committee.
The increased visibility of deputies will continue on all school campuses when students and staff return to class., spokesman Lt. Jay Baker said in the sheriff’s release.
“This presence will remain in place for the remainder of the school year,” Baker said.
Baker said in addition to everyday responsibilities of patrolling and responding to 911 calls, deputies will park in school parking lots, on roadways near schools and will also walk the property of schools that fall within the zones they patrol.
“This strategy is to assist the Cherokee County School District and its school police department in providing an additional security presence in and around its campuses,” Baker said.
In addition to CCSD schools, Baker said deputies will also have an increased presence at Cherokee Charter Academy at 2126 Sixes Road.
Sheriff Roger Garrison said part of the plan has come from paying attention to action other school districts across the United States have taken to respond to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 children, six adult staff members and wounded two others.
“We more or less cut and pasted some of those on our own strategy and what would work with the number of people we have available on any shift and the number of schools we have,” Garrison said.
“I’m of the personal opinion that we don’t need to turn our schools into a militarized zone where it negatively impacts students. We’re staying close, but at least at arm’s length, at this point,” he said.
Garrison said he is in the process of developing a strategy for a greater police presence in schools that would require more funding from taxpayers.
Developed with Col. Ron Hunton and members of the uniform patrol division, Garrison said his plan will outline how much tax revenue is needed to add 45 to 50 more deputies for the program, as the funds to implement his plan “simply don’t exist” right now.
“That is a much greater decision ultimately decided by residents of the county,” Garrison said. “We feel what we’re doing is everything we can do with resources we have and that we’re maximizing them to their greatest efficiency. We want to send the message to parents, students, teachers and the community that this has been on our mind and those students’ safety is a number one priority of ours.”
Garrison said he intends to present the plan publicly within coming weeks as a response to county residents who have questioned what his office is doing to increase security.
“I feel I have the obligation to get the issues out there for public discussion,” he said.
In a letter sent Friday to all school board members, Petruzielo said the CCSD Police Department, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and municipal police departments communicated during the winter holiday break and are continuing to coordinate an increased law enforcement presence on and around all school campuses.
Petruzielo said the new safety and security committee is part of the system’s priority of insuring all students and staff have a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning.
He said the creation of the committee was in response to heightened concerns of stakeholders following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“This committee will meet regularly to assess current and emerging school safety initiatives, as well as determine the programmatic, operational and fiscal impact of the school district’s safety and security protocols and practices,” Petruzielo said in the letter.
The committee will consist of designated district-level senior staff, administrators, parents and local law enforcement leaders, Petruzielo said. The committee’s first meeting will be held prior to the school board meeting Jan. 17 and will provide board members with additional information at the meeting.