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HILLSVILLE — A Carroll deputy will soon get a new beat after the sheriff’s office adds a school resource officer to cover the county’s remaining schools.
The person chosen for the position will travel between the different elementary schools, according to Sheriff J.B. Gardner. This will make Carroll’s third school resource officer, with one each dedicated to the high and intermediate schools already.
“Obviously, it’s a program that’s near and dear to my heart,” says Gardner, who served as the high school’s resource officer for about 15 years. “I just think that’s a wonderful program.”
Gardner credited former Sheriff Warren Manning for coming up with the idea while campaigning for his first term in office. When elected, he fulfilled that promise.
“That was new and unconventional and hadn’t been tried around here,” Gardner recalled.
Besides the obvious benefit of providing extra security for the elementary schools, the new school resource officer will be able to offer special programs. That includes a focus on facilitating Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, as well as a class on gangs and participating in special events like ball games and dunking booths at school carnivals.
Gardner envisions the new officer setting regular hours to spend time with the students at each elementary once a week.
The sheriff’s office took applications for the position through Monday, Gardner said. What he’s looking for in a school resource officer is someone with several years of experience and who likes children. Someone with emergency management experience would also be a plus.
He will make his decision on the school resource officer after a round of interviews. Gardner wants to make the selection as soon as possible.
The new officer will join resource officers Jay Williams, who replaced Gardner at the high school, and Mike Combs at the intermediate school.
“If you do the job right and you get involved in the schools, you’ll have something to do every minute of every day,” Gardner said.
For him, the school resource officer position became one of the best job experiences possible.
“My favorite thing about that job is the relationship you build with the students and the teachers at the school,” Gardner said.
The position will be funded out of the sheriff’s office’s highway safety funds.
Carroll Schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship sees lots of positives that could come out of Gardner’s idea.
It will let students see police officers in a different light and adds some security and confidence about the security of the schools, he said. “We’re extremely excited about that.”