School book and apple

With a new school year swiftly approaching, the Oregon Village Board and Oregon School District are at odds over finalizing a contract to provide a police officer for the district.

The Village Board unanimously approved Monday new contract language between the village and the school district that would “simplify and streamline” the school resource officer, or SRO, program, said Village Board president Jeanne Carpenter.

Steve Zach, president of the Oregon School Board, said the district has instead proposed renewing an existing contract, which includes specifics on things such as how arrests are conducted, qualifications to serve as an SRO, and the role of the officer in school disciplinary matters.

The School Board plans to meet Monday to discuss the village’s proposal, Zach said.

“We’re willing to sign the current contract in its current form, but we’re going to talk about the village proposal,” Zach said.

He declined to elaborate on his thoughts about the village’s proposal, citing a desire to “express my views at a properly noticed meeting of the board.”

The two-page village proposal would ensure an officer is available at the start of the school year on Sept. 3, said Oregon Police Chief Brian Uhl. It would run through Dec. 30 and includes a provision to form a joint committee of village and school officials to further discuss the SRO program.

Superintendent Brian Busler said the existing 12-page agreement, which has been in place for several years, is modeled on guides put out by the state Department of Public Instruction and state Department of Justice on school-based police officers.

He said the district’s main concern with the village proposal is that it would stray from those guides.

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“Our goal has always been the same. Our desire is to have an SRO in our school district,” Busler said.

In the Madison School District, a contentious contract to continue stationing officers at the city’s main high schools also had the School Board and the city at odds earlier this year before a deal was struck in the summer.

The Oregon School District’s SRO program assigns one officer to all school buildings, but the officer primarily works at the high school, Uhl said.

The village-proposed contract, Uhl said, would also allow the SRO to store an AR-15 rifle in the SRO office at the high school.

Uhl said he’s been advocating for this provision, especially after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Under the existing contract, the rifle, a higher-quality ballistics vest and a helmet are stored in the SRO’s squad car, Uhl said.

By having the equipment inside the high school, Uhl said the SRO would be better positioned for any active shooter threat.

“When seconds matter, our officers need to be properly equipped to stop these threats,” Uhl said.

Whether the School Board would agree to allowing a rifle inside the building is a policy matter the board members will need to discuss, Busler said.

Busler said he’s optimistic the sides will reach an agreement.

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