ATHOL, Idaho — Students at Lakeland School District start school on Tuesday, along with their two armed guards.
Last year, Athol Elementary had the district's first armed guard and it went so well that the district hired one to work at Lakeland High School starting in the 2019-2020 year.
The district already has a third armed guard lined up to start in fall 2020. They are planning to continue the additions until each of their 11 schools have an armed guard patrolling campus.
Mike Hogan, a retired New Mexico State Police Officer, was the district's first hire.
"It is awesome. I probably get a hundred hugs a day from the kids, all throughout the day. It's just amazing," Hogan said.
He builds relationships with the students, while simultaneously keeping them safe using his background as an officer. Hogan said he spends the days patrolling the campus, communicating with visitors and getting to know the children.
"It just made a huge difference," mother Darlene Peterson said. "It is a comfort to have somebody that knows how to handle situations."
All three of Peterson's children have gone to Athol Elementary school. She said it is never easy for a parent to drop off their child, but having the armed guard there makes her feel better about their safety.
Peterson isn't the only parent who feels that way. She said most families she talked to see the benefit of having armed guards on campus and are thankful for the precaution.
According to the district's Assistant Superintendent Lisa Sexton, they hired people who have a background in the police force or in the military, and who has extensive training in de-escalating emergency situations.
That's exactly what Lakeland High School's new guard and Hogan brought to the table.
"In any situation my objective is to peacefully bring about resolution," Hogan said.