Sheriff’s New School Patrol Planned

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Despite plans to implement school resource officers in the county being on hold for now, the Athens County Sheriff's Office is still planning to be a presence in area schools.

Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly said he has spoken with some county schools and with his patrol deputies about a new program within the schools that is set to begin on Monday.

"Deputies will go out unannounced and patrol the schools," Kelly said. "It's just to show that law enforcement is always in the school keeping people safe."

Kelly said the schools have been working with the sheriff's office on safety programs and drills for many years and this program will be in addition to D.A.R.E.

There have been no reservations about the new armed patrols at Trimble Local Schools and officials are happy to see deputies.

"We welcome the sheriff and we're delighted to have an increased presence here," said Kim Jones, superintendent at Trimble.

The sheriff's office attempted to contract with the Nelsonville-York City School District for a school resource officer, but in September, school board members for the district voted to drop the contract and arrange for an in-house SRO, according to previous Messenger reporting.

Volunteer Reserve Deputy Duane Covert had been serving in the position while the contract dispute was decided. Athens County Commissioners decided not to sign off on contracts for the officer because of funds necessary to do so.

Grant money the sheriff's office had been trying to obtain for the position was not received, according to Kelly.

With this new effort, day shift deputies and detectives will start making brief visits to Athens County schools, in addition to the D.A.R.E. officer who is already at the school.

"It provides comfort not only to the staff and the students, but to the parents who are concerned about the security of their kids," Kelly said.

It also comes at no additional cost to the county because it is just an added responsibility to a patrol deputy, Kelly said.

Deputies will be armed, a fact that doesn't seem to bother Athens City Schools Superintendent Carl Martin.

"I don't have any problem with it," he said. "That's what they are trained to do."