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New Fairmont school resource officer aims to connect with youth

Shannon Bass

FAIRMONT — Fairmont police officer Shannon Bass will be the new school resource officer at Fairmont Area Schools this year.

Bass, originally from Worthington, began his career with the Martin County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy in 1997. In 2001, he switched over to a patrol officer at the Fairmont Police Department, where he has been since.

“I’ve worked the roads for 23 years now, so being in the school will be a change,” Bass said.

He and his wife, Jodi, a second-grade teacher at Fairmont Elementary, have two daughters, both of whom attended Fairmont High School.

Bass has had an interest in working as SRO at the school for a while. With his youngest daughter graduating last year, he believes now is the right time for him to transition into the new role.

“I’m excited because there’s that new job feeling again. But then there’s also the nervousness of being the new kid coming to school,” he said.

Bass is recovering from shoulder surgery, so he is waiting for clearance from his doctor before he can start his new position. Several weeks ago, he was released for light duty so he has been following the school’s former SRO, Jason Christenson, around the schools. Bass also has been attending some trainings, and he helped set up the adopt-a-cop program for this school year.

“There will be eight total first-grade classes in the program,” said Bass, adding that the program will be at all four schools in Fairmont: the elementary school, St. Paul Lutheran, St. John Vianney and Fairmont Christian School.

“We just want to get the kids to realize that it’s just a fun uniform and we’re real people,” Bass said.

While his office is at Fairmont High School, he will divide his time between the elementary and high school. The position of SRO is full time. During the school year, Bass will spend his days in the school buildings. In the summer, he will work as a regular patrol officer.

“We’re basically there as a resource for teachers and students. If a student is having a rough time and just wants somebody to talk to, I’ll be there,” Bass said.

He will be involved with the Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and will attend many school functions. Above all, he wants to be a resource for those seeking help.

“We don’t claim to know all of the answers, but we can help you find them. We want people to come and ask questions. When we help people learn about something, we learn too. The kids are great resources. If you ask them something, they can teach you,” Bass said.

About a decade ago, the Fairmont school district had an SRO. Then, due to a lack of funding and shortage of officers, there was no one to fill the position for several years. But with the growing concern to keep students and staff safe, the school made it a priority to have an SRO. The school district and city signed a three-year agreement for the position. The two entities split the wages of the officer 50/50. This will be the third year of the agreement, which ends in June 2020.

Fairmont Area School Superintendent Joe Brown said, “We plan to renew it, It’s been a great relationship. We use our SRO very positively. We encourage students to go talk to them. If they see something going wrong in the community, the kids certainly have the authority to go talk to them. Their job is to help kids and provide a safe place for our students and staff.”

That is exactly what Bass plans to do.

“I’m looking forward to building new connections with the kids. I want to be a resource for them and be known as that goofy guy they can come and talk to with any problems. I want to build trust with them,” Bass said.

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