The 2010-11 school year will be the first since 1991 that D.A.R.E.–Drug Abuse Resistance Education–will not be in the Washington Township school system.
In 2009, after the Washington Township police department lost personnel to retirement and location change, officers John Wurtemburg and Kirk Griffin were required to leave their D.A.R.E. posts and re-enter the full-time patrol unit.
"It really became an issue of manpower," said Lt. Art Adams. "We need five guys out on patrol at all times, and between cuts and retirement, we were starting to only have four and even sometimes three. You can't cut from the road. We can't be effective that way."
With a 20 percent budget cut requested of each municipal department by Mayor Ken Short in 2010, the police squad was forced to take the D.A.R.E. program off the agenda.
The elimination of the program, a community policing initiative, saved approximately $5,300 for the school year.
"If it isn't affecting the health or public safety of the community as a whole, then we can't view it as a necessary expense right now," Short said.
"Unfortunately, we saw it coming," said Long Valley Middle School Principal Mark Ippolito. "So we were able to begin planning for more character education in our classes to help counteract the loss of the D.A.R.E. program."
Ippolito, a member of the Municipal Alliance Committee, met with the group's members on Tuesday, Sept. 21 and discussed the possibility of someday bringing back the program.
"In dire times, the community needs to pull together," Ippolito said. "These programs are certainly needed. If the funding is there, I'd love to see the D.A.R.E. program come back."
The D.A.R.E. program is designed to teach students in grades K-8 about the harmful effects of drugs at an early age as a deterrent to abuse.