Four members of the Umatilla School Board will begin discussing this month a possible drug-testing policy that could be implemented at the high school in time for the winter sports season.

Board members Pat Lafferty, Shelley Kennedy, Dauna Griggs and Paulette Dufloth will serve on a working group that will meet at least twice this month to discuss ideas for a possible policy. All meetings will be open to the public. The meeting dates will be released later this month.

The board completed a first reading of a possible policy in July of this year and will do a second reading of the policy after the work group has formed a conclusion about what the policy should look like.

Superintendent Heidi Sipe said earlier in the year, even though the high school hasn’t experienced significant drug problems, the testing could serve as a measure to discourage students who participate in athletics or other activities from using drugs and prevent future problems.

Last year, Umatilla High School had only one drug-related incident on campus, which involved marijuana usage during school hours.

In July, the district asked community members and students to complete a survey reflecting their desire for the policy.

“So far, all of that is super-positive,” Sipe said at the School Board’s regular meeting Thursday. “A strong majority of the people want to see the district implement a random drug testing policy. So that was interesting.”

Sipe said board members agreed earlier in the year that if a policy was adopted and a program implemented, it should be the right policy for the district, that it is a strong policy and that it will integrate well into the school setting. Sipe said 16 districts out of the 197 districts in the state currently have drug-testing policies.

Umatilla High School Principal Scott Depew said Umatilla remains the only school in its athletic conference that doesn’t currently have a drug-testing policy in place.

He said school officials have brought in a drug-detecting dog in the past to check lockers and classrooms and did so again Monday this week. He said Echo, the drug-sniffing dog from Two Rivers Correctional Institution, searched lockers, including in the locker room, and random classrooms.

He said, as a result, officials searched at backpack at the high school. They found nothing, but the bag reeked of marijuana, Depew said.

“It was very successful,” he said. “It was probably the most thorough search we have had in years. I’m thinking next time, we may expand to do a couple more classrooms, maybe hit the parking lots. It is looking like we will have monthly use of this dog.”

In others news:

•The School Board approved amending the district’s weapons policy to allow weapons in schools for instructional use or law enforcement..

•Thanks to the recent special legislative session, the Umatilla School District will receive $244,000 in extra funds to be used next year for hiring additional personnel or adding programs back into the schools. Sipe said she has identified two specific areas of interest the funds could be used to support, including adding an additional fourth-grade class at McNary Heights Elementary School to accommodate for large enrollment numbers, as well as adding more elective options at the high school.

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