County, school board show ability to collaborate

Inmates working in the schools – people tend to see that either as a great way to save money or as a problem waiting to happen.

The Coweta County Commissioners and the Coweta County Board of Education have reached accord on how to continue the long-standing practice of having inmates working at the schools while keeping students safe. The commissioners gave their unanimous approval to the new policy on Tuesday – at a meeting where Dr. Steve Barker, the school superintendent, also spoke in favor of it.

That new plan results from many hours of collaboration between school system staff and county staff. The compromise is a good example of how government should work, and all parties involved deserve accolades for their ability to communicate, compromise and reach a reasonable and workable conclusion.

“It’s a good community. It’s a good partnership,” Barker said during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Commissioner Paul Poole shared similar thoughts. “I’m proud of Coweta County,” he said. “We do everything so well and so efficiently.”

The need for a new policy arose after a student in a classroom saw an inmate exposing himself several months ago. The inmate was some distance away and apparently did not know he could be seen.

The use of inmates on school property has been a local practice for years. This has saved the school system countless dollars. Since the school system reimburses the county for fuel, supplies and staffing costs, the program also helps the county maintain and operate the county prison camp.

The new policy allows inmates to work on school grounds only outside the 180-day calendar when students are in class. There are plenty of jobs that inmates can do during the summer and during school breaks. 

The policy does allow for inmates to be on the same piece of property – if inmates and students are not in the same area. For example, students could be at an activity in a high school media center on a summer day when inmate crews are cutting an athletic field on the other end of campus.

In addition, the school system has several properties – among them the old Madras School – where work is needed from time to time but which house no students. Inmate work there can be a way to spend taxpayer dollars effectively without creating even the potential for problems.

We thank the school system and county staff members and their elected boards for using wise, sound thinking in putting together the new policy.




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