Wythe County School Board discussing SRO back up plans

WYTHE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) School officials in Wythe County are scrambling to come up with a plan to keep students safe.

In February the Sheriff said after this school year, he can no longer afford to put officers in schools. Thursday night, the Board talked about its options.

The Board Chairman said it's a shame the schools are caught in the middle of a disagreement between the County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff.

Thursday, two members relayed a plan laid out at a meeting earlier in the week involving members of the County Board, Town Councils, and the Sheriff's Department. That plan would replace School Resource Officers.

Lee Johnson was one of the School Board members at the meeting.

She explained, “School Security Officers are retired law enforcement or retired military.”

The plan would have 20 SSOs, meaning two for every building. But only ones with special training and proper backgrounds could have firearms.

Not everyone is on board with this plan.

Board Chairman Stephen Sage said during the meeting, “What we need in the schools are resources, not armed guards.”

After the meeting, he added, “Some of our resource officers actually go into the classroom, they work with the teachers, they're able to develop a relationship with the students where the students can come to them, tell them things that are going on that they may not tell even their parents.”

Another big issue is the county would have the schools pay for and run that program.

“If we want them, we'd have to cut something else out,” Sage said. “We are running on a pretty bare bones budget right now.”

The School Board decided to talk about the issue in greater detail at its retreat on Tuesday.

Johnson said, “Once we've come up with what we think our plan is to best cover our children, the best way that we can, then we turn that over to the Board of Supervisors and they, along with the Sheriff's Department, figure out how it's going to happen.”

Another issue discussed was brought up by the Rural Retreat Town Manager, who was also at the meeting earlier this week. He felt the county wants a decision fast tracked.

The School Board members promised him and everyone else in the meeting they will not rush the decision. They want to make sure whatever they have to do is the right move, given how important and life-saving the topic can be.

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