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Posted: December 17, 2012 2:50 p.m.

More deputies in schools would cost $786K

The Newton County School System would have to pay an additional $786,793 per year to staff each of the county's 13 elementary school, the Theme School at Fiquett and the Newton College and Career Academy with sheriff's deputies.

The school system currently pays $743,340 annually for 14 specially trained deputies, referred to as school resource officers, to work in its the middle and high schools, according to an email from Peggy Bullard, the school system's business manager. Based on that number, the cost is approximately $53,095 per officer.

Adding a law enforcement presence directly in elementary schools and the other specialty schools in the county would more than double that cost for a school system that has dealt with budget cuts each of the last few years.

"During my tenure we have not had substantive discussions regarding placing SROs at our elementary schools," said Superintendent Gary Mathews in an email. "Budget reductions, rather than additions, have been the norm. That said, the addition of SROs at each of our elementary schools may be something to really look at in light of the assault on little children and teachers and principal in Connecticut."

Deputy Cortney Morrison, who is in charge of school resources officers (SROs), said Saturday that SROs are at most a few minutes away from every elementary school in the county. In some cases such as Newton High and Porterdale Elementary schools (which are next door to one another), an SRO is only seconds away.

Morrison said SROs are trained to know what to do in situations such as the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., adding that the training situations are "very stressful" so that law enforcement knows how to react if something does occur.

"You learn to how to assess things in a split second and how to react in a situation like that," she said.

Morrison said that SROs are also familiar with who typically comes in and out of the middle and high schools in the county (where there is at least one SRO at all times), and that if a visitor comes into the school and does not check in at the office, they are retrieved by the SRO before they get very far into the school.

"For us, these policies have always been in place. Of course, anytime you have a situation like this come up we always review our policies and procedures. You never want it to happen anywhere, but we have to be prepared in case it does happen," she said.

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