OCS may not need sentries

Published 12:41 am Friday, June 22, 2018

Super, board agree local police give them great support, protection

Opp City Schools likely will not participate in Gov. Kay Ivey’s new sentry program.

Superintendent Michael Smithart and board members agreed Thursday that they get great support from the Opp Police Department, which makes them feel good about the safety of local schools.

Ivey signed an executive memo last month establishing the Alabama Sentry program, which allows administrators in schools that do not have school resource officers to be armed.

However, a sentry must be approved by the board, superintendent and the sheriff, and must complete training, mental health evaluations, and drug and stress tests.

Smithart said there are other options for making schools safer, such as ‘hardening’ schools.

“State wide, there is a big push on safety,” Smithart said.

“Hardening your schools is really the biggest thing you can do, like putting up cameras.”

Smithart said that hiring resource officers is another option, but is costly to the state.

“If you want to hire a resource officer on every campus the price tag on that is about $80 million. That will take new revenue from the state,” he said.

“They (the state) have to decide if they want to seek new revenue to fund it.”

Smithart said it is up to the board to consider the Sentry Program.

“Personally, I have some reservations about it but that is ultimately the board’s call. All liabilities will fall on the sheriff,” he said.

The plan requires armed administrators to be appointed as a reserve sheriff’s deputy.

“This is a deeper discussion that requires more time but it is something we will have to say yes or no to at some point,” he said.

Smithart said that Opp is very fortunate.

“The relationship we have with the Opp Police Department is amazing,” he said.

“There are officers in and out of our schools all day long, constantly walking our halls.”

Smithart said that although the schools don’t have a resource officer, the Opp Police Department is nearby.

“We may not have a resource officer assigned to our school, but there is always a police car parked outside and an officer walking the halls,”

“We are incredibly thankful for that. Anytime we’ve had an incident their response time is incredible, too.”