SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - School kicked off today in St. Tammany Parish for some 39,000 students and there were some new additions. Recently approved school resource officers and mental health counselors, are now in more than 50 St Tammany schools. Many believe they provide an extra measure of security, after recent school shootings.
Each day in St. Tammany Parish more than 50,000 parents pack up their kids and send them off to school.
It is day one at Slidell's Whispering Forest Elementary, and as the students get to know each other, in the background there's a new addition.
"We live in a world we don't know what will happen. Our primary responsibility as school resource officers is to make sure these kids have a safe secure environment," said resource officer John Meyers. He is a veteran of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office who is now one of 55 school resource officers scattered across the parish. Each provides more than 39,000 students an extra measure of security.
"To pull it off over the summer speaks to the efforts of our staff and the sheriff to make it happen," said St Tammany School Superintendent Trey Folse.
The school resource officers were made possible by a $2 million appropriation from the school board and another $1.5 million kicked in by the Sheriff's Office.
"This is a milestone and I think it will spread. And having a relationship with the schools is very important," said St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith.
The resource officers receive 40 hours of special training preparing them for events no one wants to think about.
"I want to be responsible to keep them safe just like I want my kids safe. And the parents and grandparents want their kids to be safe. It's a big responsibility but I take it seriously," said Meyers.
For veteran administrators the new officers provide a welcome presence to go along with their new normal.
"We have lockdown drills, fire drills, and severe weather as well...school wide as well," said Whispering Forest Elementary principal Meme Leonard.
The 25 school resource officers are furnished by the sheriff's office under a one year contract,. After that, it will have to be re-visited.
"We are hoping to come soon with some permanent funding solutions," said Folse.
St. Tammany school leaders consider it an investment in the safety of children.
Today's lesson, an ounce of prevention is hopefully worth a pound of cure.
While the sheriffs office is providing school resource officers in 25 schools, officers from police departments in Slidell, Mandeville, and Covington are doing the same in schools situated in those cities.