WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - It was the first day of school Monday for Washington County, Virginia students. Teachers and students crowded the halls, and so did Washington County Sheriff's Office personnel.
Once a day, every day, Washington County, Virginia Sheriff Fred Newman pulls up to several area schools, starting with Abingdon Elementary School. He signs in as a visitor in the front office, then walks the halls to make sure everything in running smoothly.
It's part of the Sheriff's Office "Once a Day Every Day" initiative, which makes sure all children are safe. The program started in December 2012 shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, and it requires all Sheriff's Office personnel to visit one school at least once per day.
Abingdon Elementary School principal Megan Denobriga says her school fells safe because of the officer presence. "It's something that's become a habit. Everybody is used to it and we're pleased to have them here. Parents greet them with smiles, and the kids are so used to being around the law enforcement, which is really good for them."
It takes about five minutes to check the schools. The next school for Newman to check is Greendale Elementary School, one of the 17 county schools where law enforcement stepped up safety. "We knew we had guys out and about in our day-to-day activities, so animal control, litter control, patrol division, school resources personnel, so we thought this would be the best way," Newman says.
He says if there's ever a safety problem, it usually involves angry parents and custody disputes. But every morning, he asks, "School day going okay?" That question while walking through the halls makes the first day of school, and the rest of the year, much safer for teachers and students.