TAYLOR — Students at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut will head back to class Thursday for the first time since last month’s deadly shootings.
Here at home, students in a school district in Lackawanna County returned to classes Wednesday, to find armed police officers in every building.
While students in the Riverside School District were on Christmas break, school officials struck up a deal with the police departments in Taylor and Moosic to have an armed officer at each school building for the entire school day.
It’s a program put together in the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting, but one that school officials hope to maintain for years to come.
Riverside Elementary West in Taylor is about the same size as Sandy Hook Elementary. Riverside administrators worried that what happened there could just as well happen here.
That’s why, when students stepped off the bus for the first time in 2013, they were met by Taylor Police Patrolman Mike Burke. Other officers from Taylor and Moosic police were stationed at the district’s two other buildings.
“The transition for the students, I think, will be more of a comfort. I’m sure that there will be questions, but being that it was in the news already, I think their parents are talking to them,” said Paul Brennan, Riverside West Elementary Principal.
Brennan said the plan is to have the officers inside the schools all day. It’s a program put together over the course of a week, and putting to the test an idea that’s been discussed in many schools nationally since Newtown.
“I immediately felt safer, calmer, that someone will be constantly looking out for not only the students, but the teachers and administration here at Riverside,” said Elizabeth DeAngelo, a teacher.
Teachers and parents Newswatch 16 spoke to were mostly in support of the district’s new policy. Riverside will pay Taylor and Moosic police departments for the use of their officers. It will cost a total of $45,000 for this school year.
Superintendent David Woods said it was an easy decision to make, and the money was available in the budget for this year. They’ll have to find room in the budget going forward.
Woods said it was important to have cops in his schools as soon as possible.
“I think there was an urgency, that parents and students and teachers and staff needed to feel safe in an environment that should be safe,” said Woods.
Superintendent Woods said they’re looking into applying for state and federal grants to pay for the officers in the future.