Franklin County Cuts DARE Program

Reporter: David Tate

Rocky Mount, VA. - Budget issues are forcing the Franklin County Sheriff's Department to make some changes, which includes the end of DARE programs in the county schools.

For the past 24 years, Denny Robey has led Sontag Elementary, and for more than half of those years, the DARE program has been a staple in fifth grade education.

"It's been a valuable program that I've been supportive and a proponent of all the time," said Robey.

But this will be the last year the program is at Sontag or any other Franklin County school.

"It's a decision that the sheriff's office had to make and a decision our school board had to make shows that the funding has reached a level that we have not had to face before," said Robey.

The change doesn't affect the district's four school resource officers. And while the savings is just under $1,500 per year, the move is meant to get the best bang for the buck.

"It was just a fact of reallocating our resources to get out and do some law enforcement things that we needed to do in relation to what we were getting accomplished with the DARE program at this current time," said Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton Jr.

Money woes across the county are forcing radical change in all departments, made even worse by this year real estate assessments down an average of 15%. Compare that to the most recent assessment from Bedford County, which dropped 3%.

It is change that officials hope will be temporary, even though the writing on the wall says these tough changes are likely the new norm.

"It's been a program that is very valued and great, but in terms of things we are going to have to let go because money is not going to be available. That's as understandable as some other things that they are going to have to let go," said Robey.

While there have been questions about the effectiveness of the DARE program in the past, Overton says those concerns had nothing to do with the decision, which was mutually made by his department and the school district.