WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The shootings last month in Newtown, CT, have sparked a common theme at elementary schools nationwide: increased police presence. We're seeing the change at all elementary schools in New Hanover County.
Sheriff Ed McMahon hopes to work with the county on a long-term solution.
"My opinion is what's the best solution? We get an officer in every school," McMahon said.
And that's exactly what he has set up through the end of the month. The sheriff has placed 24 armed deputies from various divisions within his office in the county's elementary schools.
The sheriff says all of the officers selected showed interest in the job.
"In the short-term fix, we've got it covered with the majority earning overtime pay," McMahon said.
Looking to a long-term plan, Sheriff McMahon hopes to work with the county and area leaders to develop a program where officers would be a mainstay in the schools, receiving school resource officer training.
"It's not just going to be an officer with a gun; to be able to interact with the children and teach them, and this will be a whole generation that we will be able to reach in a much more positive way that we haven't been able to do before," McMahon said.
The sheriff has already seen a huge response from officers wanting to change positions and work in the schools.
If county commissioners approve the program, funding will be the next immediate concern. Commission Chair Woody White says it will take the beach towns, the City of Wilmington and the county to join forces and cover the cost. Sheriff McMahon says the money is worth it to help prevent a tragedy like the one at Sandy Hook from happening here.
"Looking at it from a security and safety standpoint, the only way to try and stop that is putting deputies in the schools," he said.
Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis says he is hopeful to work with other mayors to pull together the financial resources for a long-term plan.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti told us town leaders plan to review any future proposal from the county.
We could not reach Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo for his opinion.
At this point, the Sheriff's Office is not sure how much placing deputies in elementary schools will cost. Long-term plans will be reviewed during the New Hanover County Commission meeting Monday night.