By James Niedzinski
---- — City school officials have abruptly and “indefinitely” shut down an after-school care program at West Parish Elementary School following an apparent incident between students that has sparked an investigation involving Gloucester police, several sources have confirmed today.
The shutdown of the after-school program which serves about 60 families and 82 children in the West Parish district, which serves students in kindergarten through Grade 5, also follows a note being sent home Friday to families in the after-school program and a Friday night meeting at the school that included parents, Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier, Mayor Carolyn Kirk and Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello.
No officials today would elaborate on the alleged incident that sparked the investigation, but some West Parish parents have told the Times that it involves alleged “inappropriate” behavior on the part of older students in the program.
Safier said that, from the schools’ perspective, the investigation is focused on whether there has been proper supervision within the program, which includes three supervisors, one substitute supervisor and serves an average of 35 students per day.
Campanello added this morning that, while he cannot comment on what remains an ongoing investigation, the Police Department is assisting school officials in examining the program’s supervision, adding that the GPD joined in the investigation after being contacted by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, which in turn had been contacted by the city schools.
“Right now, our investigation is procedural,” Campanello said, adding that there is no confirmation any crime has been committed. “If we were to find it rises to the level of criminal (behavior), then we will go down that path,” he said.
Safier said that no supervisors from the program have been placed on administrative leave or suspended; Campanello added that the investigation and other aspects of the case involve only the after-school program, and do not in any way involve the rest of the school or other students or families. All of those tied to the after-school program have bene notified, he said.
Safier said that, depending on the status and time taken for the investigation, school officials are looking into providing the families and children an alternative to the program by next week.
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James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.