South Lewis adds several new services, including resource officer

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TURIN — South Lewis Central School students and staff have seen a number of changes this school year, including addition of the first school resource officer at a Lewis County district.

“It’s going great so far,” said Eric P. Schmitt, a sergeant with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department. “The biggest obstacle is learning new faces and names.”

Sgt. Schmitt — who previously headed the department’s now-defunct Drug Abuse Resistance Education program — said he has enjoyed once again working with students. “It’s a whole different course of law enforcement,” he said.

While having a law enforcement officer on campus in the event of an emergency or criminal incident will obviously be beneficial, the primary goal is to be proactive and prevent negative behavior among students, District Superintendent Douglas E. Premo said.

“It’s more to be involved in the everyday life of our school district,” he said.

After undergoing school resource officer training last week, Sgt. Schmitt has participated in welcome-back assemblies and helped with bus safety and character-building presentations at the two elementary schools, and the plan is for him to oversee programs on internet safety, anti-bullying, student of the month and other such topics, Mr. Premo said.

“He’s going to be a presence in all campuses,” he said.

The position is being covered through a state school violence prevention grant that annually pays out $58,673 for five years, Mr. Premo said. The first year of funding was used to help the Sheriff’s Department train a new road patrol officer to replace Sgt. Schmitt and add more security cameras at the school, he said.

Sgt. Schmitt said he plans to continue overseeing the Lewis County Shop with a Cop program and will likely have other duties with the Sheriff’s Department when school is not in session, including snow days.

The district has also added a school-based health center that will be operated by Lewis County General Hospital, and the North Country Family Health Center will offer a mobile dental office at the school.

“The goal of a school-based health care clinic is ease of access,” Mr. Premo said, noting the district is still awaiting final approval from the state Department of Health.

If parents sign up for the service, their children may schedule appointments for physicals, immunizations or allergy shots, and clinic staff, upon school nurse referral and parental consent, would also be able to treat them for illnesses and prescribe medication right from the school, he said.

The school-based clinic will bill insurance but waive any deductibles or co-pays, leaving parents with no out-of-pocket expenses, Mr. Premo said. Transportation will also be provided for elementary students who wish to use the center, he said.

The dental clinic will offer free preventive services like screenings and charge for more extensive services on a sliding scale based on family income, Mr. Premo said.

South Lewis and Beaver River are also sharing an athletic trainer, Megan Shepherd, hired through the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, with the county-owned hospital effectively covering the local share for the districts, he said.

The district has also implemented a one-to-one technology initiative using funding from the Smart School Bond Act, with students from kindergarten to grade 3 offered iPads and those in grades 4 to 12 assigned Chromebooks, Mr. Premo said.

Some of the funding also went toward security measures and upgrading the district’s wireless internet system to better handle the additional usage, he said.

District officials are also continuing to work on a proposed capital project, approved by the Board of Education over the summer, that would create a new elementary addition at the middle-high school and ultimately close elementary schools in Glenfield and Port Leyden, he said.

The superintendent said he has been talking with neighboring property owners about purchasing some of their land. If a purchase option can be worked out in a reasonable time, the project could come to a vote as soon as December, he said.

While the majority of staff and attendees at three public forums endorsed the consolidation plan over a second option to renovate all current district buildings, Mr. Premo said it will ultimately be up to district voters as to whether the plan moves forward. “We’re excited to see if the public is going to support that project,” he said.

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