A Westford Police officer is expected to be on duty at Nashoba Valley Technical High School next September after approval by the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night.
The motion brings back the School Resource Officer position that existed in the school as a full-time position from 1998 to 2006 and as a part-time position from 2006 to 2008.
Although Westford Police public safety officer Michael Croteau told the board that the position would help in preventing possible criminal activity at the school, Nashoba Valley Technical High School District superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz stated that the main goal of bringing back the position to the school was to build a positive relationship between teenagers and authority figures.
“We’re hoping that this can help become students become accustomed with police officers and help build understanding with the police in ways comparable to things such as the D.A.R.E program,” said Klimkiewicz.
The superintendent expressed to the board that Nashoba would entirely pay for the position, coming either from grant money or from school choice funding, and that the position would cost somewhere between $54,000 to $79,000.
This figure would not be prorated, with potential disability payments incurred through job-related incidents to be covered by a pending memorandum of agreement between the school district and the town.
And although the school district will pay for the officer’s salary and incidental costs, the officer, who is expected to be a more experienced officer according to the discussion, would still be an employee of the Westford Police Department
Only Selectman Robert Jefferies voiced concerns relating to proposed agreement, fearing possible symbolism shown to the students if the officer at the school carried a firearm while on duty.
“I don’t like sending the message to the students that they’re being watched by an armed guard,” said Jefferies. “I got a commitment last time and it was totally ignored, not from the school, but by the previous police chief.”
Klimkiewicz told the board that she did not recall the final two School Resource Officers at the school being armed, and she would not be comfortable with the proposed officer carrying a weapon either.
While approval by the board was unanimous, wording was attached to the motion strongly urging that the officer not be armed while on school grounds.
The officer would oversee students from what is now eight towns, with the town of Ayer approved to become a member of the Nashoba Valley Technical School District after approval from the town of Shirley's Town Meeting last night, the last member town in the district to grant approval for the admission.