Sheriff’s Office And Nelsonville York School District Seek Grant For School Resource

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Officials with the Nelsonville-York City School District have decided to abandon plans to employ in-house the county’s first school resource officer. Instead, school officials are working with the Athens County Sheriff’s Office to apply for a grant to support the position.

The three-year grant proposal for $227,419 was submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services program in June, said Dawn Deputy, fiscal officer for the sheriff’s office, via email. The funds, if granted, will cover salary and fringe benefits for one SRO.

The application, however, is currently in limbo due to the government shutdown. Calls to the COPS office are answered by an automated message that states most operations, including online acceptance for new grant awards, have been halted due to the lapse in government funding.

Sheriff Pat Kelly said he expected to be notified this month whether they were awarded a grant. Instead, his office and the school district are in a holding pattern.

Last month, the school district opted to hire an officer in-house after attempts to contract with the county sheriff’s office fell through. Once the district learned that doing so meant the individual wouldn’t be considered a commissioned officer and thus lack any law enforcement authority, the district decided to put the project on hold.

“We want someone who can help with other issues, other than just walking around the halls of the school,” explained Supt. McClelland.

As previously reported by The Messenger, the resource officer was expected to oversee Nelsonville-York’s elementary, middle and high school students, who are housed on the same campus. The plan was to have the officer on school grounds during the same hours as teachers to respond to any criminal activity related to the school and to teach or speak in the classroom on related topics.

The district has been working on an SRO contract since last fall, first with the Nelsonville City Police Department and later with the sheriff’s office. The district and the sheriff’s office came to an agreement by mid summer and in July selected Sgt. Duane Covert as the officer for the job. The only piece that remained was signatures from the Athens County Commissioners.

When presented with the contract, the commissioners raised concern over some of the costs imposed on the county. The county commissioners’ approved an altered contract, but the school board voted to drop the proposed contract because it “kept getting further and further” from the district’s original goals.

If the sheriff’s office is awarded a grant, the school district will resume its efforts to get a resource officer, said Supt. Mick McClelland.