Hall monitors were first assigned to Beaufort County's public schools nearly 20 years ago to curtail student squabbles in hallways and, according to one principal, became part of the culture.
But since Oct. 1, the district's middle and high schools have had to learn to get by without them.
"We had two very active hall monitors, and they were highly engaged in the school and culture, going beyond just hall monitors but also serving as character coaches and mentors," Beaufort High School principal Corey Murphy said. "Their absence is felt, and it is really difficult going forward without them and their help."
Forced to cut $3.4 million from its budget over the summer, the Board of Education reluctantly chose to remove the hall monitors starting in October -- a savings of $250,000.
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The cuts were not immediate because the board wanted the 14 monitors to have time to find new jobs and allow the schools time to prepare for the departures. A majority of the former monitors are now in other district positions.
"We are concerned about safety now that the hall monitor positions are gone," parent Emily Bierman said at a recent school board meeting on behalf of H.E. McCracken Middle's School Improvement Council.
"They assisted staff and students daily," she added, "and having full-time hall monitors in each of the middle and high schools is a necessity to not only handle incidents in progress, but to help prevent them."
Several former hall monitors last week declined to comment on the cuts.
Hall monitors were first introduced in the district at Battery Creek High School in the early 1990s, school board chairman Bill Evans said. At that time, the school was the scene of regular fights, and administrators decided an added presence in the halls might help.
They were right, Evans said.
The hall monitors were so effective in curbing problems at Battery Creek that the district began to assign them to other schools, said Evans, who was principal at Hilton Head Island High School when monitors were added there.
Good monitors did much more than walk the halls and make sure students were in class or that traffic moved smoothly during class changes, Evans said. They really got to know students and became go-to people for help, he added.
"It's my perception and strong belief that we conducted school better with those individuals in the building," Evans said.
But since monitors were first introduced, schools have added school resource officers and behavior-management specialists, most of which were spared the district's budget cuts. Schools such as Hilton Head High and Whale Branch Middle have been using people in those positions to monitor students.
Hilton Head High principal Amanda O'Nan said teachers have different hall duty rotations throughout the day. Whale Branch Middle principal Matthew Hunt said his parent-liaison staff member is on foot patrol during the day and is visible to students.
Both O'Nan and Hunt said the transition from hall monitors has been fairly smooth, though their companionship is missed.
Other schools, such as Beaufort High, have required a little more work to adjust.
Murphy said his administrative team and support staff have had to redistribute the hall monitors' responsibilities to maintain a presence throughout the day. Doing so has reduced some of the time previously devoted to other tasks, he said, but it is manageable.
Evans said the board would consider ways to bring hall monitors back if the schools find they are needed or see an increase in disruptive behavior. So far, Murphy and O'Nan said they have not found that to be the case.
"It's less people involved in the supervision of students, so it means more people have to take on more responsibilities," Murphy said. "I understand that decisions have to be made when there are budget shortfalls, but sometimes there are ripple effects, and this is one where their presence is missed on a daily basis."
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