In the last few weeks, deputy sheriffs in San Clemente have utilized another location besides the police station to stop, file reports, and rest.
That’s because parents at Our Lady of Fatima Academy in San Clemente recently banded together to provide law enforcement working in town another space to work and relax.
The idea is for deputies to be able to stop at a room in the Catholic school, which serves transitional kindergarteners through eighth-grade students and is located at 105 N. La Esperanza, instead of driving to the police station at City Hall.
Jeff Price, a parent at Our Lady of Fatima, told the San Clemente Times he got involved after first hearing rumblings of the project months back but didn’t see a tangible process.
“Then, that Nashville school shooting took place, which struck a chord with myself and my wife because there’s a fair number of similarities between that school and our school,” Price said.
Once he received the go-ahead from school principal Brett Minter and leadership within the Parents of Fatima volunteer organization, he contacted other parents who knew officers at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol to set up conversations that taught him how they could best support law enforcement.
The parents then pooled resources to create a welcoming environment for officers, stocking the room with a printer, a desk and chairs, ink, a refrigerator, snacks and drinks, a couch and a television.
On May 17, around a dozen officers, including Chief of Police Services Capt. Jay Christian, came to the campus for a small grand opening event.
Price complimented the officers who have used the substation since opening, calling them an “amazing group of people.”
“If you’ve got a bad guy breaking into your house, they’re the ones that you want to show up because they’ll take them down,” he said. “But they’re also the ones that, if you want to have an officer coming to your school to talk to the first graders and give them a junior deputy sticker, you’d love it.”
Although Our Lady of Fatima’s current school year is essentially over, with eighth-grade students’ last day being Friday, May 26, the parents will stay involved in ensuring the room remains fully supplied, according to Minter.
He added that the school is working on a schedule for parents to volunteer throughout the summer and the next school year.
Minter said having the presence of officers on campus was “priceless” in that the personnel are building a connection with students. Additionally, the unpredictable nature of when they’ll arrive to the substation helps ward off would-be attackers.
“There was one time a couple days ago that (no officers were there), and all of a sudden we have three,” said Minter. “They all stop in, sit down for a little bit, or do a report (and) then they grab a beverage and leave. You just don’t know when they going to show up, (and that’s) a benefit for us, to help keep us safe.”
Price also called the substation a “real win-win situation.”
Given that the service of others is part of the school’s mission statement, which is painted near the steps up to the front entrance, Price called the parents’ efforts a great opportunity to live out their mission, especially for those tasked with protecting the community.
Minter added that the substation is a way to show gratitude to the deputies.
“We talk a lot about service with our students (and) with our community about giving back, and we’ve given back to all sorts of organizations around San Clemente,” said Minter. “We’ve got to give back to our (sheriff’s deputies). They’re our first responders, they do a lot, they keep our community safe, and they work tirelessly, so anything that we can do to help them, (we’ll do).”