Deputies To Store Rifles At Schools

• Will be kept in gun safes for use in emergencies.

By TOM WOERNER

Of The Record Staff

The Harnett County School Board voted to allow resource officers to store their long guns on campus.

The board voted unanimously to build gun storage safes for long rifles on the campus at the middle and high schools in the county. The new policy will affect 10 schools where resource officers are stationed.

The gun safes will be upright structures, bolted to the wall and the floor, according to Sheriff Wayne Coats.

“The officer at the school will be the only one with access to the gun,” Sheriff Coats said.

They will be tightly secured and will be fingerprint activated.

The sheriff said he came up with the idea.

“If something goes wrong I want the officers to have the guns where they can get to them,” Sheriff Coats said. “I wanted the guns to stay there so they don’t have to bring them with them every day.”

Board Vice Chairman Eddie Jaggers, a Harnett County Sheriff’s deputy, made the motion to approve the measure.

“We need to move forward on this as soon as possible,” Mr. Jaggers said.

The resource officers currently keep rifles stored in their vehicles while they are on campus. They carry the same weapons on campus as any other officer including handguns, pepper spray, tasers and batons.

Sheriff Coats said the rifles would be needed in the event of an emergency.

“It reaches further and has more accuracy than a handgun,” Sheriff Coats said.

The storage safes will cost between $222 and $305, meaning the cost of the project will be approximately $2,500. The school system maintenance staff will install the safes.

In other news, Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming announced there will be an opportunity for parents to ask questions and hear updates from the comfort of their homes. He will host a Facebook See Schools, Page 3 Schools

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live, virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The forum will begin at 6 p.m.

Dr. Fleming announced the school system has received a $1.25 million grant from the United States Department of Defense. The grant will be used to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM programs, in areas of the county where there is a high concentration of military students. The largest military populated schools are in the Overhills and Western Harnett attendance areas. More information on the grant will be released later. “We want to work on changing these schools to a more digital learning environment,” Dr. Fleming said.

Former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nancy Holmes wrote the grant before she retired earlier this year.

In other action, the board discussed the possibility of adding a free lunch and breakfast program throughout the community.

Currently six schools participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP. The schools participating are Gentry Primary School, Dunn Middle School, Erwin Elementary School, Johnsonville Elementary School, Harnett Primary School and Wayne Avenue Elementary School.

The program provides an opportunity for educational agencies in high poverty areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to students.

According to Child Nutrition Director Krista Johnson, if the county extends the program to the entire county a total of $2.7 million in reimbursements from the United States Department of Agriculture would be lost because of the current demographics within the system.

A second option for the board to extend free lunches countywide is for the school board to pay the lunch prices now being paid by students who pay full price and those who pay reduced prices. That option would cost the county approximately $1.15 million, based on statistics from last year.

Mrs. Johnson also presented a proposal to extend the amount of money students can charge for lunches in the event they don’t have a way to pay. Currently students in elementary and middle schools can charge up to $10 for meals. A charge letter is then sent home to parents so they can pay the bill.

Mrs. Johnson is proposing to extend the program into the high schools and to increase the limit to $12. The board will consider the measure at a later meeting.

The board heard a positive audit report.

The audit shows that as of June 30 the system has $13.3 million in its fund balance. The schools had $29.75 million in revenues and $29.8 million in expenditures.

“I would say you have done a great job,” said Aprille Bell with the auditing firm Dixon Hughes Goodman.

The board voted to once again participate in the Toys for Tots program. Boxes for toys will once again be placed in schools throughout the county.

“This is one of the best programs we have and we need to support it,” board member Vivian Bennett said. “I have heard from a lot of people about how this program helps.”

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