The county Board of Commissioners has delayed voting on a request to improve security at Scotland County’s schools by closing in campuses with walls.
Assistant Superintendent Larry Johnson, joined by schools Finance Officer Jay Tolin, presented the updated project to the commissioners at this week’s meeting. The county rejected funding a similar project last year.
This week, Johnson described the fence as “perimeter connectors” that were needed for student and faculty safety at several county schools.
Included among the schools where the walls are needed was I. Ellis Johnson (at a cost of $50,490), North Laurinburg ($94,230), Shaw School ($66,960) and Scotland High School ($195,000).
Johnson asked the commissioners to approve appropriating the approximately $100,000 left over from the expansion of Wagram School to the security project.
The commissioners agreed delay a vote on approving the funding until April so that more research could be done by county staff.
“We didn’t vote at the time to give us a month to figure out exactly how the money would be spent and if it was being spent effectively and efficiently,” said board Chairman Guy McCook. “There is certainly a need for attention to added security for our students and employees … and we don’t want to happen to us what has happened elsewhere in the country recently.
McCook said that he would support moving the leftover Wagram School expansion funds if the security project was the “highest priority” capital need for the school system.
Commissioner John Cooley, who was vocal in his opposition last year, said that he still does not support the project.
“There is nothing wrong with the school system returning money to the county that was not spent,” Cooley said.
Cooley was also not swayed by the school system’s use of the phrase “perimeter connector” to describe the wall project.
“I don’t care if you call it a moat, or a fence, or a wall or a palace … there are cheaper ways to go to do the same job,” he said. “What they are proposing is extravagant.”
A source close to the project said that the school system agreed to call the brick wall a “perimeter connector” in an effort to re-brand the updated security proposal after a similar one was poorly received in 2012.
School system representatives will meet with county staff and several commissioners later this month to discuss the full scope of this latest project, McCook said.
According to Tolin, the Wagram School expansion had to be completed in-house after the firm handling the work went bankrupt while the expansion was only 60 percent completed.
“There were some savings because of that,” Tolin said.
Included among the security measures that the school system has already initiated was a lock down protocol for every classroom and the installation of a keyless entry system in every school.