Officers noticeable at St. Johns County schools

Other counties increase patrols after Newtown tragedy

File photo of St. Johns County patrol car
File photo of St. Johns County patrol car

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – It was back to school Monday in St. Johns County, and the new year brought some new additions to many campuses in the district: law enforcement officers.

Schools are increasing officers' presence on campuses after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"I was glad to see a cop here this morning because I thought that coming back they might have forgotten about the kids. So I'm glad they're there," parent Laura Page said.

Page said the officer makes her feel a little better leaving her kindergartner at Ketterlinus Elementary in St. Augustine.

The St. Augustine Police Department and St. Johns County Sheriff's Office are both stepping up their presence at schools across the district.

"I think it gives them a peace of mind at the school that things are safer, that the officer isn't far away," Police Department spokesman Mark Samson said.

The St. Johns County School District has 23 school resource officers, one at every high school, and others that rotate now between middle and elementary schools. There are also other officers that are dropping by schools throughout the day.

"I would love it if it was a cop here all the time at the school," Page said. "I mean, that would definitely make me feel better."

The School District says it is reviewing safety plans to see if a change like that, or any changes at all, are necessary.

"We have heightened our awareness, we are conscious of our schools' emergency operations plans school administrative teams as well as school safety teams continue to meet," said Paul Abbatinozzi, director for school services in St. Johns County.

School districts across northeast Florida are doing the same thing. In Baker County, officials met Monday to discuss adding more school resource officers, but opted against it because of budget cuts. The two current resource officers will rotate between the county's six schools.

In Duval County, resource officers assigned to middle and high schools will now visit elementary schools as well.

Clay County officials say they are working with local law enforcement.

And in Alachua County there is a law enforcement officer assigned to every public elementary school.

Even with safety on the forefront in St. Johns County, there's also a desire for normalcy.

"Our goal is to get back, continue to focus on business as usual, balanced with the focus on safety and security for our students," Abbatinozzi said.

School officials there say there's no timeline or meeting date set for when they will discuss making changes to their safety plan. They say it's something that's done on a continual basis.

And while they believe their plans are strong right now, it's always a work in progress.