By MADELINE HUGHES
The Champlain Valley School District board gave its approval Tuesday night for school administrators to contract with the Shelburne Police Department to hire a school resource officer for the district.
The three-year contract will cost the district about $85,000 a year.
During the summer, school administrators talked with officials from Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Office about contracting services for a school resource officer. Hinesburg and Shelburne both submitted proposals. Shelburne’s bid came in under Hinesburg’s, which would have been about $103,000 a year.
Though Jeanne Jensen, the district’s chief operations officer, didn’t see the contracts as a numbers game, the difference it made sense to go with Shelburne, she said. The three-year contract covers paying for the officer and a police cruiser for about 185 days a year, the time school is in session.
The contract has been quietly in the works between Shelburne and the school district, Shelburne Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn said. Shelburne’s police department is not currently fully staffed, and Chief Aaron Noble has a person in mind to hire for the position, which provided an opportunity to juggle the budget in a way to absorb the costs of entering into the contract, Krohn said.
Discussions about the opportunity were discussed publicly in Hinesburg at Selectboard meetings because it would have meant hiring in that police department.
The choice to go with Shelburne “makes a really interesting circle of support for CVU,” Jensen said.
Shelburne’s police department was the only local department not already working with the schools. Hinesburg would be the likely first department to respond in a crisis at the high school, given its proximity. Williston Police Department has the restorative justice center, making it already intertwined with the school system, Jensen said. That includes conflict management and rehabilitation programs for criminal offenders. Williston decided not to submit a resource officer proposal.
Because the district wants a police officer in the resource officer position, it must enter a contract with a police department, so it made sense to talk with local municipalities about creating the position.
In June before the summer break, CVU Principal Adam Bunting worked with Jensen on a list of duties and requirements for the officer. The officer will be armed and will spend about 85 percent of the school year in the high school. The officer will spend the remaining 15 percent in the community schools, Jensen determined from talking with administrators last year.
Community school principals said that they would want the officer present sometimes to introduce students to the idea of a school resource officer before high school, and in crisis situations. The scope of the officer’s duties within the community schools has yet to be determined.
Bunting offered an example of just last week when CVU experienced a tragedy when a teenager connected to the school died in a car crash. Bunting said he thought about how a resource officer might have helped in dealing with that situation.
“One of the things I keep thinking about is to have that connection with a police officer and with those external resources” that would help in those situations, especially because people congregate at schools during those times, he said.
The district will negotiate with the town of Shelburne over the next month and should have a contract for the school board to approve at its Oct. 16 board meeting.
• In previous budget cycles, the board held meetings at the various community schools during to try to be more accessible across the district. After discussing various options for this year, the board decided it will only meet at CVU because of its centralized location, hoping to have more people engage and follow through in the process.
• CVSD has $2.2 million left over from last year’s budget. The surplus is due to a substantial savings on healthcare plans, which were not finalized when the budget passed, Jensen said.
• If some district residents were wondering about an unusual phone call recently, Superintendent Elaine Pickney explained that the school principals have access to all of the schools’ lists, and one principal accidently called an incorrect list.