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School and police officials are optimistic that a proposal to plant an officer at the middle school during lunch periods and after school activities will be up and running in a matter of weeks. That timeline and other logistical issues were hashed out in part at a meeting last week that brings District 91 administrators and police closer to realizing the collaboration.

“We’ll have an opportunity to interact with the kids at lunch and build some relationships,” Chief Jim Ryan said.

School board members are expected to vote next month on whether to hire a police officer who will serve as a school resource officer at the Forest Park Middle School. In large part, the position would mirror a grant-funded program intended to cut down on bullying that was in place last year. The officer would interact with children during lunch periods and other “unstructured times,” Principal Karen Bukowski said, serving jointly as a mentor and disciplinarian.

Without the funding from state lawmakers to continue the grant, the two offices are discussing ways to extend the program.

Ryan said he expects to make one off-duty officer available to the school each day, which will avoid depleting his patrol units. That officer will be paid $31 on an hourly basis with the school district bearing the entirety of the costs. Under the previous grant program, Ryan assigned Sgt. Peter Morrissette and Sgt. Steve Zanoni to the school. He expects at least one of the sergeants will return this year, lending some consistency to the effort.

According to Bukowski, familiarity is one of the keys in getting students to respond positively.

“That all goes toward establishing a relationship,” Bukowski said.

The grant-funded program during the 2006-07 school year marked the first time in Bukowski’s five-year tenure that the school has had a resource officer.