City and schools considering return of ORS

Wiscasset Police Chief Larry Hesseltine told the Wiscasset newspaper on Friday that he was pleased the school department provided two-year funding for a school resource officer. He hopes to get an ORS back into schools as soon as possible, and residents come to see its value so they support its funding when the grant money runs out.

Labor has had close appeals with voters. Last June, they rejected him 202-198. And on Jan. 11, Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood told the Wiscasset Middle High School Library School Committee, over Zoom and in his written report, that an American Rescue Plan Act grant had been approved. “And we have budgeted for a school resource officer for the next two years. I am working with the City Manager and Chief of Police to see how we can contract services in the city and when this position will start,” Wood wrote.

She told the committee that she really did not want to wait until July 1. Besides the grant, the department still has $10,000 to spend on the work from the 2021-22 budget. She would love to have ORS both at Wiscasset Elementary School, where she said the students enjoy hanging out with him in the cafeteria; and WMHS, again doing activities and meeting students.

Wood, Hesseltine and, in a report to selectors ahead of their Jan. 18 meeting, City Manager Dennis Simmons, said the school department’s ARPA grant would cover 35 weeks a year for two years; the other 17, when the officer was out of school, would be in town; Simmons told the board he was unsure if the issue of the SRO in June was lost due to cost or if voters felt an SRO was unnecessary.

“Engaging someone…under these circumstances could be problematic,” Simmons wrote. “Are we making progress, when and how?”

Responding to follow-up questions via email, Wood explained that she was looking to remove funding as an issue by getting the grant. “I went ahead and immediately started working on the grant to make sure the funding wouldn’t impact this decision, but we’ll see what happens.”

She told the committee on January 11 that she had to submit the ARPA grant application three times before it was approved over the Christmas break. Additionally, she noted that this year’s school budget still contains the $10,000 that was earmarked to help the ORS, before the ORS issue was lost in the municipal ballot.

She told the committee that she would keep it informed.

Also on Jan. 11, Wood announced she felt “very comfortable” saying local ratepayers would not see an increase on the school side for 2022-23. She worked with the heads of departments of the department upstream of a draft budget. She expects to have information on state aid in February. And Wood said both schools have struggled with staff absences and have so far avoided walking away because of them because the school is the best, but other districts have had to. and “there’s this fine line,” she said.

The committee passed in first reading a proposed drug policy, according to nurse Marilyn Sprague, which would allow the training and use of Narcan if necessary in the event of a drug-related emergency at school. The public comments included new statements for and against children wearing masks. Officials supported the department’s universal masking; without it, learning would be distant, Wood said. And reunion attendees applauded the 32 years of service of Laurie Berry, bus driver and lead driver. Wood announced that Berry planned to retire at the end of the school year. Officials praised Berry for his dedication.

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