SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - With a renewed sense of urgency following recent deadly school shootings nationally, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School Board is trying to figure out how to make district schools even safer.
Savannah-Chatham Board of Education Police Chief Terry Enoch gave a safety and security update during one of Wednesday's board meetings. That refreshed a call to action by board members, who are now looking at shifting around the budget to accommodate.
We spoke to board members Julie Wade and Shawn Kachmar over the phone on Thursday. They both say Chief Enoch has made numerous improvements to the district's safety plans and resources since taking over. That said, the school board's acknowledgment that school safety and security needs to remain a priority - even get a boost - was at the center of Wednesday's conversations.
"I think waiting until next year's budget cycle to take even more security measures is too long of a wait. Yes, I'd like to know what the numbers are for the next budget cycle, but I also, I want to look at what we can do tomorrow. What can we do next week," said District 4 Board Member Shawn Kachmar.
Kachmar says he'd like to look at what can be re-prioritized in the existing budget to free up funds for resources like security technology upgrades.
Some suggested by Chief Enoch in his presentation were lockdown hardware for classrooms, panic alarms and emergency communications, and access control doors. Between infrastructure and technology updates, hiring and training more school resource officers and adding social workers and counselors, District One Board Member Julie Wade believes they could be looking at a million dollar investment or more.
"We don't have that sitting around anywhere, but I think, I think the time is right and I think it's critical, and I hate to even say millage rate increase because that's such taboo stuff, but if there was anything to justify an increase, to me, it would be student safety and security," Wade said.
At the end of the presentation, Board President Jolene Byrne asked the superintendent and police chief to provide dollar estimates for things like adding social workers, school resource officers, and new security technology for the board to consider.
The school board's budget committee will meet next Monday morning and could be getting a preliminary look at costs for things like additional school resource officers and security technology.