Agreement helps add second school resource officer in Columbia

COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - Keeping the school day safe is a top priority for any school district. .

"Safety and security is our number one factor in raising achievement in the Columbia School District," said Superintendent Jason Harris.

For the Columbia School District, resources have been spread thin in the past, with only one resource officer in charge of keeping tabs on close to 1,800 students across four campuses.

"The main thing is to make sure that they are safe and return home everyday," said SRO Lt. Pearlie Hendricks.

But, Hendricks will soon be getting help, thanks to a partnership between the Columbia Police Department and the school district. Columbia Mayor Justin McKenzie announced Thursday the department and district will split the salary for the additional resource officer.

Harris said will help lighten the load for the district, faced now about $15,000 to $20,000 for the officer, plus funding for new programs.

"Everybody's, you know, in a crisis to try and find money," said Harris. "It's our job as officials to work together to find and do what's right by our students and make it get done."

Columbia Sergeant Jason Cook will also be trained to offer programs like D.A.R.E, to increase drug awareness and prevention. Harris said the district has not had funding, or a person available, to offer to students.

"Showing them that the choices that they make, that there is consequences behind that, leading them in a direction that maybe they haven't had before," Cook said. "Leading them on the right path."

Part of the agreement, Cook will work with the district through the school year and then he will shift back to the police department for patrol in the summer.

"This isn't a one person school district, it's a community school district and we are providing this for our community as a whole," said Harris.