Sheriff cautions of the new school year

By Jeff Linville - jlinville@mtairynews.com

DOBSON — As parents stock up on school supplies and kids are picking out the perfect outfit for the first day back, the Surry County Sheriff’s Office is also making plans and preparing for a new school year.

With school starting back next week, Sheriff Jimmy Combs said that his office has been thinking forward to traffic control, lockdowns and other activities such as DARE for some time. He also wants members of the community to be aware that students and buses will soon be on the roads in the mornings.

“Please be aware of the children,” Combs said. “As well as the officers that are out directing traffic to help expedite the drop-off and pick-up process.”

For the first week, deputies will be out at numerous county schools directing traffic, he said.

Officers assist year-round with traffic control both morning and afternoon at North Surry High and Gentry Middle schools, due to the high traffic volume and the busy highway they are located on. But all of the county schools experience an increase in traffic during the first hectic weeks of the year. And, drivers have forgotten to be on the lookout for buses over the summer break.

Combs also asked that drivers allow for extra time in the mornings next week as everyone gets back in the swing of things.

“Be aware of the school buses and the bus stops,” he said. “Watch out in blind curves and watch for kids getting on or off the bus. Just take extra precautions and allow for some extra time to get to work.”

The main concern for the sheriff’s office is keeping kids safe, Combs explained.

In addition to traffic control, the sheriff’s office is making plans for school lockdowns for the upcoming school year.

“Over the years, the lockdown drills have become part of normal school life just like fire drills and tornado drills,” he said. “Because of the reality of our times, this has become something necessary for our children to learn and practice.”

He said his goal is to keep students, faculty and staff safe. To do that, officers from the sheriff’s office make plans to surprise each of the county schools and then evaluate that school’s response and law enforcement’s handling of the situation. Then everyone has the opportunity to make improvements and changes to ensure the optimum response.

Also, the School Resource Officers have attended various training classes and are prepared to return to school with new strategies and ideas to ensure the safety of students. They are also prepared to start the second year of middle school DARE and continue teaching the DARE program in all the elementary schools in the county.

“Our SROs are not only there for safety, they are approachable to discuss issues from bullying to problems at home,” Combs said. “And the DARE program helps to address the issues of peer pressure and prescription and illicit drug use through education and prevention.”

Last year’s middle school program had almost 700 graduates from the county DARE program.

“I want to thank Dr. Travis Reeves and the Surry County Board of Education for the partnership in keeping our schools safe,” Combs said.

By state law, schools must open on the Monday closest to Aug. 25, which will be this coming Monday. By next year, Surry County Schools is hoping to have a new plan in place that will allow it to start classes earlier to give more schedule flexibility in case of winter weather closings.

By Jeff Linville

jlinville@mtairynews.com

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.