New state grant helps Stone Co schools boost security

STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Twenty-four school districts across Mississippi are making plans for extra security measures. Those districts will be receiving the latest round of the new MCOPS grant.

The state Board of Education approved spending $630,000 to place an additional 63 trained officers in public schools. Last October, the board awarded $1.57 million to place 157 officers in 50 school districts. The funds will mean a lot to small districts like Stone County.

You normally see Stone County deputies William Head and Kathy Rogers patrolling the halls of five schools, checking the exits, and looking out for intruders. What many people don't realize is the School Resource Officers also put in a lot of overtime hours for off-campus events.

"We do the functions for the ball games, student activities. We're there with the kids to keep them safe," Head said.

The Stone County School District can now supplement the officers' salaries, thanks to a $20,000 MCOPS grant. MCOPS stands for Mississippi Community Oriented Policing Services.

"I think it's awesome! It's needed and it's overlooked, especially in small communities like ours," said Head. "We need the support from the state. We have a small community and we just don't have the tax base like our neighboring counties have, so it is a welcome asset to our schools."

"Oh I'm excited! I can't wait. It's going to help us a lot. It's going to help tremendously the long hours we work, the training we need," said Rogers.

The officers also plan to purchase equipment to help them do their jobs. They would also like to start a gang resistance education program. So they'll need to buy materials for the classroom and incentives for the students.

"We'll be able to teach them drug education programs, about gangs. We really don't have a gang problem in Stone County, but we want to keep it that way," said Rogers.

Crime prevention and school safety are reasons behind the MCOPS program. State lawmakers set aside $5.5 million for the grants last year in response to the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 20 children and six adults dead.

"This grant means a tremendous amount of support for our school district, especially in partnership with the Stone County Sheriff's Department. It's really going to make sure that we improve our safety aspects for our students and our staff," said Tonya Bolton, Stone County Schools Safe Schools Director.

"I'm excited! I think our state has done a really good thing," said Rogers. "It is putting a lot of attention on the important role that we play in the children's lives, because if they have problems, they can come to us."

The Bay-Waveland School District is also on the list to receive $10,000 from the MCOPS grant. However, the superintendent said she has not received an official notification yet.

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