Students of Eastbrook Community Schools will experience a new normal when they return to school on August 11.
In addition to face coverings, socially distanced desks and assigned seats on the bus, students will see a new face in the hallways each day.
Max, a fifteen-month-old German Shepherd, will join Eastbrook school resource officer (SRO) Mike Spaulding to add another layer of security to the schools, said superintendent Brett Garrett.
“(Spaulding) is really a wonderful person,” Garrett said. “He’s really created and cultivated a great relationship with our students and staff. We’re hoping this only enhances that relationship.”
Max is the first police dog to work for any school in Grant County. The duo completed a four-week training in tracking and detecting narcotics and gunpowder this summer.
According to Garrett, Eastbrook schools have conducted many random drug searches since he was hired in 2012, and no drugs have been detected during those searches.
Although drugs have not recently been an issue at Eastbrook, Spaulding said having the K-9 in the buildings might deter students from bringing drugs or firearms to school.
“If you’re going to this school and you’re thinking about doing something you shouldn’t, maybe you’ll think twice,” Spaulding said. “It is just another tool to help enhance safety in the schools for the students and staff.”
Max and Spaulding will make visits to the high school, junior high, and elementary schools, completing random locker and vehicle sniffs.
In light of recent events, Eastbrook High School principal Pat McLaughlin said the most significant factor in bringing Max into the schools would be enhancing students’ comfortability with their SRO.
“I’m sure that there are some, just with the way that the world is right now, that just have an ill feeling towards law enforcement,” McLaughlin said. “We’re just hoping that we do everything we can to make sure kids feel comfortable approaching law officers, especially our SRO.”
Spaulding said he hopes Max can bridge the gap for students that may be fearful of law enforcement.
Max is social, friendly and has not been trained in aggression, so Spaulding said the students would be able to pet him.
Many of the students are familiar with Spaulding because he lives in their community, has children in three Eastbrook schools, and has worked in Eastbrook for the past four years.
Getting Max and training him and Spaulding was a significant financial investment, and McLaughlin said ECS hopes for it to be a long term deal.
Community donations fully covered the cost of obtaining and training Max.
“There’s a lot of support in the community, even during the COVID pandemic when some businesses were not getting as much income, they were still willing to donate,” Spaulding said. “They thought it was a good cause.”
Dr. Mary Gary, the owner of Hometown Animal Hospital in Gas City, committed to providing Max’s medical care at no cost to the school, Spaulding said.
If anyone wants to make a donation towards Max’s food and other expenses, contact Spaulding through Eastbrook Community Schools.