LOVELAND, Colo. - The Larimer County Sheriff's Office will use volunteer deputies to increase security at six elementary schools in the Thompson school district.
The School Marshal Program was created after a meeting with school officials and Larimer Sheriff Justin Smith after the tragedy at Sandy Hook. In a meeting with parents Monday night, the superintendent said he was concerned about the lack of security at the elementary level.
Currently, a school resource officer works in the middle and high schools in the city of Berthoud. However the elementary schools in Berthoud and outside the city of Loveland do not have security.
"When Columbine happened, it changed law enforcement. It changed the way law enforcement responds. I would say Sandy Hook changed law enforcement in the aspect of elementary schools. Elementary schools to some degree do not have same protection high schools and middle schools have," said program coordinator Sgt. Jeff Vanhook.
Larimer county sheriff's office will use its reserve deputies to run the programs. There are 25 reserve deputies on staff who will be armed, similar to a school resource officer. They are trained in a reserve academy and internal field training, and they are forced to undergo the same hiring process as paid deputies. The major difference between the two is the reserve deputies are volunteers.
"Our deputies will be armed with weapons. Hopefully they’ll prevent or at least stop that threat," Sgt. Vanhook said.
Monday, parents weighed in on the decision. The majority thankful the district is taking extra security measures.
"It's just good to be proactive rather than reactive," said Jill Strait who has two elementary aged students. "I don’t want to be here in the future trying to figure out what we can do to fix a problem that we had."
But one parent questioned the district's decision telling the superintendent, "I don’t want my child to be taught to be afraid in the elementary stage."
That parent also claiming the district is using the program as a political move, after a tumultuous year with the school board.
The School Marshal Program is slated to start in late April. Deputies will start in six schools including Coyote Ridge, Cottonwood Plains, Carrie Martin, Ivy Stockwell, Berthoud and Big Thompson elementary.