A several-months-long dispute that has been going on between the Douglas County School System and the city of Villa Rica regarding the funding of a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Mirror Lake Elementary School was resolved Monday morning.
Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North said this item was being added to the school system's 2018-2019 budget.
"If they're (the city of Villa Rica) are willing to do half and provide the car, we are committed to doing this," North said.
North said this would do two things: provide more security at the elementary school and reduce the coverage required by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office to support elementary schools in unincorporated Douglas County.
The Douglasville Police Department has School Resource Officers in all elementary, middle and high schools inside the Douglasville city limits — Douglas County High, Factory Shoals Middle, Stewart Middle, Arbor Station Elementary, Burnett Elementary and Eastside Elementary. The city of Douglasville and school system split the costs for the SROs at those schools.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has permanent SROs in the other middle and high schools in the county. Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said previously the DCSO also has B.L.A.S.T. (Bringing Life and Skills Together) officers that rotate through the elementary schools in unicorporated Douglas County.
North said an additional SRO has already been allocated for the Performance Learning Center for this coming school year, which begins Aug. 8.
Mirror Lake Elementary School is unique in the fact that while it is within Douglas County, it is the only school in the district that falls within a neighboring municipality, specifically the city of Villa Rica. It is also the only school within the city of Villa Rica that does not have an SRO.
According to Villa Rica Mayor Jeff Reese, all of the other Villa Rica schools, which are part of the Carroll County School System, are funded by a 50 percent split been the county school system and the city, which also pays for the officers' vehicles.
This item came up for discussion at the Villa Rica City Council meeting Thursday afternoon, where the item, after some deliberation, was left in the proposed budget as "a placeholder," according to Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilman Gil McDougal, who lives in Douglas County and represents a large portion of its Villa Rica residents.
McDougal said this comes to roughly $29,000 per year for each party's split. He said his son attends Mirror Lake Elementary and his niece teaches there. The school itself is located in Councilwoman Shirley Marcham's district, who also represents a portion of Douglas County residents.
This offer was made by the city of Villa Rica months ago to North, who according to McDougal said that he would take a look at it; McDougal said North told him that that DCSS has 19 elementary schools outside of Villa Rica and does not pay for SROs in any of them.
McDougal's biggest concern was that Mirror Lake Elementary is not close to any other school where an SRO is in place, such as Mason Creek Middle School.
"It is one of those things you hope you'll never need, but it if something happens, I couldn't live with that," Reese said.