Caroline County Public Schools

Caroline County Public Schools

DENTON — Preston Elementary School will soon have its own full-time school resource officer, after the Preston town commissioners, Caroline County commissioners and Caroline County Board of Education all agreed to help fund the new position.

Capt. James Henning of the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office said the officer hired for the job, who recently retired from the sheriff’s office, should be in place at the school by the middle of October at the latest.

CCPS Assistant Superintendent Milton Nagel said because Preston does not have a town police force, Preston Elementary School was the logical choice to be assigned an SRO.

“Each of the town police departments are attentive to their respective elementary schools, and maintain a very visible presence,” he said. “Without a local police force, this is not possible at Preston Elementary.”

Nagel said the role of the SRO is to build positive relationships with students and staff and, to the extent possible, resolve issues before they escalate.

Henning came to the Caroline County commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Sept. 11, to ask the county to cover part of the new 10-month position’s $64,700 salary.

Preston’s town commissioners voted the night before, Monday, Sept. 10, to give $10,800, Henning said. The remainder will be split evenly between the county government and the Board of Education, $26,950 each.

The county commissioners voted unanimously to contribute the necessary funding.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Saelens said the Board of Education would also contribute its share.

Preston Commissioner Kathleen Barry thanked the county commissioners and Board of Education for helping pay for the new position.

“We’re grateful you’re willing to put up the money to get coverage,” Barry said. “We are very appreciative.”

Gov. Larry Hogan’s Maryland Safe to Learn Act, signed earlier this year, requires every public elementary and middle school in Maryland to have either a school resource officer or an adequate response plan from local police in place before the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Both middle schools in Caroline County already have a school resource officer, as do both high schools.

Henning said the sheriff’s office is still waiting for legal guidance on what will count as an adequate response plan for local police; the sheriff’s office might end up having to assign school resource officers to the remaining four elementary schools before the start of the next school year.

Maryland is distributing money to all local jurisdictions next year to help fund the new school safety requirements, Henning said; Caroline County should get between $60,000 and $70,000.

However, he said, it is still unclear if that will be one-time funding, or continue annually.

Four of the five elementary schools — Denton, Federalsburg, Greensboro and Ridgely — are covered by town police that visit the schools on a daily basis and respond as needed in an emergency.

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