SPECIAL REPORT: Watch Dog Dads Protect Local School
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Schools across the country have been combating one growing concern this year and that's how to ensure our schools are safe.
Following the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, School District 51's Safety Board has been pondering short and long term safety programs to implement in the schools.
The Watch Dog Dads at Shelledy Elementary School have caught their attention.
Garth Cowley especially feels this call to action because of his profession as a Mesa County Sheriff's Deputy.
"People need to feel secure and to be able to safe in their homes and in their schools," said Cowley. "The police cant be everywhere where they're needed and there's a lot of things going on in the world - specifically our country right now."
"At first the dads have been nervous, they're not ones who are usually in the classrooms playing math games and reading with kids," said Margaret Hofer, Assistant Principal at Shelledy Elementary School. "The more they do it, they've just jumped right in and loved every minute of it"
Hofer emphasized the benefit of having more eyes in the classrooms.
"This is a way to get extra people of the campus, to monitor the kids, to monitor activities going on around the school," said Tim Leon, Safety and Transportation Director for District 51.
Hofer adds that the students were excited when male volunteers, touting their Watch Dog Dad shirts, started participating in classroom and recreational activities.
Watch Dog Dad Cowley says its not just the students who are benefiting from the program at Shelledy.
"It helps me with my parenting skills, this is a great way to get closer to your own children," said Cowley.
Cowley's son Mason says he likes having his dad around school because they get to spend more time together and he likes when his dad knows all of his friends by name.
When asked how she felt about her dad volunteering in school, Cowley's daughter, Jade, exclaimed, "I loved it!"
Cowley hopes that more dads will take some time out of their busy days to get involved.
"What a great way to give back to your community and influence them in a positive way," said Cowley.
"We all feel real safe here," said Hofer.
Leon says that start up costs for each school are relatively inexpensive, about $350.
District 51 officials would like to get this program in as many elementary and middle schools as they can given they have enough funding and volunteers.
Fruitvale Elementary is the next school to implement the Watch Dog Dads this coming fall.
District 51 officials say if you want to learn more about how to start Watch Dog Dads in your school, call your student's principal to discuss options.