Approximately five members of the community and five staff members of Tahquamenon Area Schools (TAS) met in a meeting on Tuesday, November 28 to discuss ideas for a potential program to allow members of the community to monitor the halls of the high school.

This was an idea of Newberry resident Kathy Dzelak and her Monday sewing group. Dzelak is concerned with the vaping and bullying happening in the halls of TAS. She wants members of the community to monitor the halls during school hours and make a positive difference within the district.

The Monday sewing group, made up of mostly grandmothers, meets on Mondays at the American Legion Post 74 in Newberry. While making quilts for veterans and elderly residents, or working on personal projects, the ladies discuss how to make the community better.

“We were going to call it ‘Grammas who Care’, but decided to change it, because we figured there would be others besides grandmothers who want to be involved,” Dzelak said.

Those present at the November 28 meeting decided that the volunteer group would be called “People who Care.”

Dzelak is not only concerned about her grandchildren, but all students and staff of TAS.

Helen Newberry Joy Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Beaulieu attended the meeting at TAS. He’s concerned about vaping as a public health issue.

At the start of the school year, TAS implemented a series of penalties for students caught with vaping devices on school grounds. The infraction results in suspension, and students are referred to law enforcement. Fines are also assessed, with amounts that increase for each offense.

Newberry High School Principal Trevor Clark and district Superintendent Stacy Price agree the volunteer project would be beneficial to the students and school.

If approved,  community volunteers will monitor the halls in shifts during school days and may limit how many students use the bathroom at the same time. Legally, volunteers cannot monitor from inside the bathroom, though having an adult in the hallway may stop students from vaping in bathrooms.

The volunteers would wear a colored lanyard or identifying marking to denote volunteer monitors. How to introduce the program and the volunteers has been under discussion.

“I was really happy to see the support from the school staff, and from Dr. Beaulieu from Helen Newberry Joy Hospital and the Health Department,” Dzelak said.

Anyone who volunteers at the school will need to fill out a sheet for the district’s IChat background check.

No decisions were made at the meeting, and Clark said that the school will discuss the concept with the district’s attorney before moving forward.

“Everyone there was really positive, and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Dzelak. “I am really excited about it.”

The Newberry News will continue to follow the story.