Board votes no to Bloomingdale school resource officer

$20,000 cost is one concern

SARANAC LAKE — Bloomingdale Elementary will not get a school resource officer, as requested by the Essex County sheriff.

The Saranac Lake Central School District board voted unanimously to refuse the offer on Wednesday night.

Sheriff David Reynolds’ plan required a $20,000 buy-in for school districts to receive an SRO, drawn from a pool of deputy sheriffs, for 20 hours throughout the week on a randomized schedule. Last year while running for office, he had hoped that the county would pick up the whole cost, but that didn’t happen.

“I’m not in favor of it,” board member Clyde Baker said of the current offer. “I think it’s too much money for it. I don’t like the idea of having a gun in the building either.” But he went on to say that he did appreciate the idea to the extent of having a police officer engaging with the kids.

“That they’re not this entity out there,” Baker said. “That they’re someone that you can talk to.” For board member Nancy Bernstein, along with the cost and issue of the gun in the school, having an SRO only in Bloomingdale Elementary, the district’s smallest school with the fewest discipline issues — didn’t make sense.

Even in the hypothetical case of getting an SRO in the high school, Bernstein said she’d still be more comfortable with disciplinary issues being handled by a teacher or someone trained to work specifically with adolescents — not a deputy. Board member Jeremy Evans said that while this SRO plan is not the route the district should go, the discussion around SROs should continue. He said the district should continue to look into other options that address other opportunities — and the other schools in the district.

Originally, Reynolds came before the board in October 2018 seeking a letter of support for his plan to put an SRO in every Essex County school for 20 hours per week, entirely on the county’s dime. The board granted that request for support later in October.

“This is merely a letter of support, and if it comes to fruition at the county level, at that time we will have to decide whether we truly want a school resource officer in Bloomingdale school,” Rick Retrosi, school board president, said at the board meeting on Oct. 17, 2018.

The county Board of Supervisors amended Reynolds’ plan, requiring a $20,000 buy-in, dependent on how many school systems favored the program.

“I understand it,” Reynolds said of the Saranac Lake board’s refusal. “Each school district has to do what’s best for their students and community.”

Just because they voted no this year doesn’t mean the proposal couldn’t be revisited next year, he said. He added that it will likely be a fluid agreement that will change in the future.

Reynolds said he’s received preliminary “yes” from the Crown Point, Willsboro and Elizabethtown-Lewis-Westport school boards. But those districts haven’t yet completed and approved their budgets for next year, so it is not certain.

The Lake Placid Central School District board declined the program in late November.

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