The ORR school resource officer Matthew McGraw was asked by the Old Rochester Regional School Committee to look into reports of students speeding in their vehicles to school on Route 6, especially from the Marion direction. On April 5, McGraw reported his findings, prompting the committee and ORR Principal Michael Devoll to consider creating a policy to address the problem.
McGraw contacted the Marion Police Department about a month ago and over the past several weeks the Marion Police had more patrol cars monitoring student drivers on Route 6, resulting in several students being pulled over. That prior Friday alone, nine students were stopped for speeding.
“It’s like the Indie 500,” McGraw said, “especially at the end of the day.”
Speeding is of particular concern at the Marion S-curve where most violations have been witnessed.
McGraw wants the committee as well as administrators to consider a policy that would impose consequences upon student drivers caught speeding to and from school to warn them “to start acting smartly behind the wheel,” McGraw said, adding that police would prefer such measures to issuing citations to the student drivers.
“We don’t have a problem writing citations,” McGraw told the committee, saying first-time student speeders usually receive a verbal warning. “We don’t want to jam kids up with a driving history at such a young age.”
McGraw said he was looking for more of a “halfway smack on the hand” from the school end to help curb student speeding in the future.
McGraw had looked to other area schools for suggestions in policies addressing student vehicle operators, finding Old Colony’s method of communication with police and the community beneficial. When the school receives a report of student speeding, parking privileges are suspended.
Some suggestions for a policy at ORR included suspending parking privileges and also making the parking permit application “more intimidating,” as committee member James Muse suggested. McGraw said a system of having the student passengers of student drivers sign an agreement to report unsafe driving by their drivers might employ “peer pressure” in helping to solve the problem.
According to Devoll, “Very, very few senior high school students are on busses after school,” leaving many to either drive themselves or ride with other students as a way of getting to and from school.
The committee is looking towards drafting a policy to put into effect for the coming school year.
In other matters, the committee approved the establishment of a community garden on the ORR school grounds to be run by the students of the ORR special education transitional program for ages 18-22.
Teacher Becky Okolita received permission to go ahead with a 30- by 90-foot garden to be located behind the school, which will be piloted by the four students currently in Okolita’s class.
“We are looking for real life opportunities to integrate functional academics and life skills and transitional skills,” Okolita told the committee.
Okolita said she got the idea by looking at the Capabilities organization in Dennis where adult clients with disabilities are working on a farm growing and selling vegetables and fruits as part of the program.
Okolita seeks to foster further community-based skills and integration for her students and has procured a $500 grant to help start up the project.
An experienced gardener in Marion, she said, has also joined in to assist Okolita in establishing the garden, even assisting her in compiling a list of much needed supplies and tools to get growing.
The garden would be accessible, she said, to people of all levels of mobility to become a true community garden. The fruits of their labor would be sold at local farmer’s markets, and Okolita said she might reach out to local organizations that help local families put food on their tables.
Okolita chose to name the project the EmpowORR garden, “Because I think that it’s important to empower students with the skills for a successful future.”
The EmpowORR garden project still needs donations of money as well as supplies. She has set up a fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/orrhsgardenandgreenhouse. Please contact Becky Okolita at email@example.com for more information on how to donate supplies.
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for May 10 at 6:30 pm in the junior high media room.
By Jean Perry