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Columbus County also exploring increasing officers in schools

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WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) -- In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, CT, safety in schools is becoming a hot topic.

The New Hanover and Brunswick County schools are already looking into adding officers in schools, and Columbus County could be next.

Columbus County Superintendent Alan Faulk says safety is one of his school system's top priorities. At a meeting Monday night, educators asked county commissioners for support to make area schools safer.

"They were actually talking about nine officers," County Manager Bill Clark said. "I think they're estimating it at about $40,000 per officer, so about $360,000."

While the cost may be high, Whiteville City Schools Assistant Superintendent Anthony Martin says the invaluable service provided is well worth it. Armed resource officers are currently stationed in two of the five schools in his district.

"Resource officers have been a very good asset to us," Martin said. "Some of the things that they bring us is that they bring us a sense of safety and stability to many of our stakeholders. A lot of times they can be a calming force when we do have incidents, and another benefit that they provide is a bridge from the school to the community."

Martin says the impact of the resource officers in his schools extends far beyond student safety.

"The Whiteville Police Department, they have selected resource officers for us not just warm bodies, but that would interact with our students and not just promote student safety but promote student learning," Martin said. "They build very good relationships and it's interesting to talk to the officers themselves and find out that they're apart of many of these students lives just as much as many of their teachers are so it's really amazing to watch."

The Columbus County Commission is scheduled to sit down with leaders from the county's two school districts in February to discuss the possibility of adding more officers to schools.

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