Following North Charleston’s decision to put police officers in all of the city’s public elementary schools, Dorchester 2 School District officials want similar protection for district elementary schools outside the city limits. But who would pay the bill?
Annual costs easily could top $500,000, and no one among the district, the town of Summerville, or the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Officer is offering to pay the tab.
“Everybody’s budget is short,” said Dorchester County Sheriff L.C. Knight.
Dorchester 2 is the only area school district whose leadership has called for police in all elementary schools. The district has four elementary schools in North Charleston and eight outside the city limits, in Summerville and unincorporated Dorchester County.
“Whatever it takes, we are not going to have four schools protected and eight not,” Superintendent Joe Pye said. “This is about protecting everyone’s children, and my employees.”
But it’s also about money.
North Charleston has been paying the bill for police in the city’s public middle and high schools, and adding police for the more numerous elementary schools will cost the city $1.5 million yearly plus another $500,000 to equip the officers.
City Council unanimously voted to approve the mayor’s plan to police elementary schools Thursday night.
“Let not the life of a teacher or innocent children be taken over cost concerns,” Councilman Todd Olds said at the meeting.
The city’s initiative came in response to the killing of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, by a lone gunman with a military-style, semi-automatic rifle.
In the Dorchester 2 district outside North Charleston, the school district pays for about half the cost of local police and sheriff’s deputies in middle and high schools. Based upon North Charleston’s costs, staffing eight elementary schools could cost more than $500,000 yearly, plus initial equipment expenses.
Pye said he plans to ask Summerville and the Dorchester County Sheriff for assistance.
“It would be ridiculous if I didn’t ask,” he said.
Summerville Mayor Bill Collins and Knight said they don’t have money or manpower to spare.
“I can see the need for it, but I don’t know where the funding is going to come from,” Knight said. “I’ve been working with my (county) council, trying to get more deputies on the road, but I haven’t had much luck.”
Collins said funding would be a problem, but that’s not his only concern.
“We’re not quite as flush as brother (Keith) Summey down there in North Charleston, so we’re going to have to figure out what to do about it,” the mayor said. “I’m also not sure it’s the best solution, and there are a lot of issues to look at,” he said.
Summey is the North Charleston mayor.
“I think the community understands that threats are there, but they are not only in the schools. There have been shootings in movie theaters and shopping centers.”
Collins said he would like to discuss the proposal with school and public safety officials.
“I don’t know how you protect everybody from everything, but we do need to look at it and see what we can do,” he said.
North Charleston plans to have police stationed in elementary schools when classes resume in January.