SLED’s school safety training program finds new home base in empty Lexington One school | Columbia News | #schoolsaftey

GILBERT — School safety training in South Carolina could soon have a new base in an abandoned Lexington County school, pending final state approval.

In a Sept. 19 meeting, the Lexington School District One board agreed to lease out an unused elementary school to the state Law Enforcement Division for the agency to conduct its school safety training program.

“We should not have to worry about our children when we drop them off at school,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in the meeting. “And that’s the goal of this center … to help see that our kids are safe statewide.”

A permanent home in the old Gilbert school would allow SLED’s existing school safety training program to improve and expand, Keel told the Lexington One board.

The move comes as concern for safety in schools has skyrocketed with a growing number of incidents each year.

The old Gilbert Elementary School building was left vacant several years ago after Lexington One closed the school and redistributed students between one existing school and another one that was built as a part of the district’s 2018 bond referendum. Initially, the district considered demolishing the school or using the space as a preschool.

“While there were other possibilities for the use of the vacant campus, this partnership with SLED provides an opportunity to put the campus to use for a purpose that has far-reaching positive impacts,” Lexington One Spokeswoman Libby Roof said in an email.

SLED’s existing school safety program trains local and state law enforcement officials, teachers, administrators, bus drivers and other school personnel on school safety. But, because it has lacked a permanent home, the programing bounces between churches, office building and vacant schools during the summer months.

SLED’s school safety training began more than 20 years ago, but ramped up in 2012 when the agency first received funding from the federal Homeland Security Department to expand the state program, Keel told the Lexington One Board during a presentation last November. The program, specifically South Carolina’s active shooter training, has been recognized as one of the best in the world.

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