Wallkill approves new SRO contracts

By Ted Remsnyder
Posted 8/28/19

Heading into the school year last fall, the Wallkill Central School District introduced a bolstered School Resource Officer (SRO) and Special Patrol Officer (SPO) program that stationed a local …

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Wallkill approves new SRO contracts

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Heading into the school year last fall, the Wallkill Central School District introduced a bolstered School Resource Officer (SRO) and Special Patrol Officer (SPO) program that stationed a local police officer at all five district schools. At the Board of Education’s Aug. 22 meeting in the high school library, the council approved a trio of inter-municipal agreements with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the towns of Shawangunk and Plattekill police departments to continue the program for the 2019-2020 school year.

The district worked with all three departments to come to an agreement on the officers that would serve in each building. “The county and the municipalities are all working with us again, and they’re great people, good to work with and we were able to come up with the agreements again,” Wallkill Superintendent Kevin Castle said. “We had to add some things in it. There are new laws out there regarding what has to be in these agreements, mainly what the responsibilities are. We had that before, so we actually had that in our plan. We had to tweak a couple of them, but we’re in good shape. We’re looking forward to that partnership again. Keeping our kids safe and keeping a positive school environment.”

The district made the SRO and SPO initiative a priority last year after the raft of school shootings continued nationwide. “I want to thank the Shawangunk PD, the Sheriff’s Department and the towns of Newburgh and Plattekill for helping to make the program work,” Board of Education President Joseph LoCicero said. “Security is a huge issue for us and we’re excited to have those people in place to protect our children and not have any issues.”

During Thursday’s meeting, the board also approved a resolution to hire the Tetra Tech firm to perform a mandated five-year building condition survey throughout the district for a cost of $59,000. Castle explained that the survey is the first step in a methodical process that could see the district present its next capital project to the public. “You have to continue to maintain your facilities because we’re going to be educating our kids in the facilities for years to come,” Castle said. “Meanwhile, we have to be cognizant of the taxpayer. So it’s a balancing act.”

The superintendent said the district has a tentative goal of a public vote in December 2020 for its next project. “What we do first is look at what our existing debt payments are and when they’ll be retiring,” Castle said. “So right now, we have debt coming off in 2023-2024 that’s retiring. That’s estimated. So that’s your starting point and then you go backwards from there. If in fact we want to keep this debt level the same, which is sound financial management, because we have to keep maintaining our buildings for our students. So we start planning from there. So that’s where we’re at right now.”

The Tetra Tech survey will identify potential renovations to district buildings. “So to begin, the engineers and architects will be doing a five-year building condition survey,” Castle noted. “It’s a thorough analysis and inspection of our buildings and facilities. Then they prioritize. They’ll say, ‘This is priority one, two and three and so on.’ They’ll give a dollar amount. If priority one is X amount of money, that then starts giving us an idea of how much the project will cost. So then we take these priorities, along with what the Building & Grounds Committee does, with board members and administration walking around the buildings ourselves and creating a list of things that should be done to maintain our facilities. We take both of those reports that we do and combine them to start developing a scope.”

The district will need residents’ approval for any capital project to go through. “As we develop that scope, we keep in mind a dollar amount that would continue to keep our debt the same,” Castle said. “The reason why you want to do that is so the local share, the amount the taxpayers pay, stays flat. You want to avoid it going down, and then four years down the line when you could have done that work, now suddenly you have issues in your facilities and you have to go out to vote and the debt spikes back up. Then the taxpayer feels that. So you have to plan accordingly to keep that debt flat. That’s what we’ve been doing. The last two capital projects that we’ve done, we’ve done that. We kept our local share the same and done incredible work in our facilities. So that’s the process. It’s premature right now to say what work will be done, because we have to get that five-year building condition survey completed. Once that’s completed, we’ll have a better idea of what the scope of work will look like. Then we’ll talk to our financial advisors about when we need to go out to vote to keep that debt the same.”

The district will open its doors to students for another school year on Sept. 4, as last week’s meeting was the final board session before kids return to school. “It’s funny, I walked into the high school today and you could smell the wax on the floors, so it felt like a new school year has started again,” LoCicero said. “Here we go. There’s new paint on the walls. We’re very excited about the new school year. Everything’s in place. We’ve just done some minor approvals tonight to just get things on the ball so that we have our teachers in place.”

The district will host orientation sessions this week before classes commence next Wednesday. “We’re ready to roll,” Castle said. “The custodians have done a great job getting our buildings prepared. The office staff in all our buildings have gotten all the paperwork in order to send home to the parents. I know they love that, to fill out all of those forms. But nevertheless, they’ve done a great job. The building administrators have done a great job and we’re ready for the kids, teachers and staff to come back. It’s always exciting.”

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