FORT MILL, S.C. -- By now, their presence is well known. They are officers with the Tega Cay Police Department who are now stationed at Gold Hill Elementary.
Parent Kathy Lotierzo sees a police officer every morning when she drops her son off at school.
“I think right now for us it was a sense of security for him and make him feel better about being here every day,” says Lotierzo.
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Fort Mill Schools have been looking for ways to improve school security. The Police Chief sent several officers to the school on the day of the shooting, and an officer has been there ever since.
Principal Terry Brewer credits the Chief for taking the initiative in answering concerns from parents.
“Parents knew his officers were here sometimes, but they asked if there was a way they could extend the time officers were here,” says Brewer.
The chief adjusted schedules, assigning one duty officer to patrol the Elementary school between 7 a.m. through 6 p.m.
The school is adjacent to the middle school where there is a dedicated Resource officer on staff.
Most middle and high schools have a resource officer, but it is unusual to have an armed officer at an Elementary School.
Principal Brewer says having an officer on board means they have a direct link to their first responders during an emergency. Officers can learn the school’s crisis plan and familiarize themselves with faces and the layout of the building.
According to Brewer, you may find an officer doing paperwork, reviewing surveillance video, checking locks, or even talking with a class about public safety and careers in law enforcement.
She says one class invited the officer to have lunch. Brewer says the additional security will be helpful during special events where many visitors are expected.
“It’s been nice to have an additional presence as a safety measure here, and it was thoughtful for the chief to work with schedules to work that out.”
As a result, the changes come at no additional cost to taxpayers or the district. The officers however will leave the campus on occasion to answer other police calls and assist in emergencies.
For Lotierzo, every little bit helps.
“We just told him the adults are going to do their best to keep them safe and it is a safe place to come every day. It was just an unfortunate and sad incident that happened and I think as parents and adults you have to do the best to reassure them that.”