Craven County Schools has been awarded a $133,332 grant from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction that will go towards the hiring of school resource officers (SRO) at four local elementary schools.

According to a Craven County Schools press release, the funding comes in the form of a two-to-one matching grant that will provide funding to secure SROs at James W. Smith Elementary, Roger Bell New Tech Academy, JT Barber Elementary, and Oaks Road Academy. The school system will be responsible for funding an additional $66,668, bringing the total SRO funding to $200,000.

“Having a school resource officer at each of these schools will help build a positive relationship between our students and local law enforcement and assist in promoting anti-bullying initiatives, contribute to drug and crime prevention programs, and provide a safe and secure campus during school hours and at after-school activities,” the press release states.

According to Debbie Hodges, director of Student Services, the four schools were selected after a needs assessment was completed by Craven County School District staff. Among other criteria the assessment looked at poverty levels in the various schools as well as how quickly local law enforcement could resound to a threat at each location.

“James W. Smith was chosen because it is very isolated, it’s in a very rural part of the county,” she commented.

According to Hodges, the school system currently has nine SROs, one at each middle school and high school with the exception of New Bern High, which has two SROs.

“Our school resource officers provide that sense of safety. Just as importantly, they develop relationships with the students that allows them to see officers in a positive light,” said Hodges.