As Montezuma County Sheriff Deputy Chris Barry walked into the library at Dolores Elementary School Wednesday, he was met by a group of wide-eyed kindergartners.
They looked up at the deputy with wonder.
"Do you like superheroes?" Barry asked a 5-year-old who was wearing a cape.
The boy nodded, smiling.
"Superman is the best because he can fly," Barry continued as the boy smiled.
Barry started Monday as the school resource officer in Dolores, the decision to hire the school resource officer was recently approved by the Dolores School Board of Education. The board voted to pay $8,000 toward the officer, matching $8,000 from the Montezuma County Sheriff's Department, so that a school resource officer can patrol the halls, school grounds and deal with safety and security issues at the schools.
In the library, Barry sat down and read a group of students a book about dinosaurs.
"My biggest hope is to interact with children in a positive manner," he said. "And cultivate relationships that will carry over into their adulthood."
This is the first time Barry has been a school resource officer but he has a long list of experience in law enforcement and as a coach. He just started the baseball season off in Dolores as the head baseball coach at the high school. He has 20 years of experience coaching baseball and football.
Barry, 46, has a 10-year-old son and recently retired from his position as a police officer in Pennsylvania after serving in Bensalem, Penn. for nearly 24 years. Barry recently moved to the area with his son when he started working as a patrol deputy with the Montezuma County Sheriff's Department in June of last year.
After retiring from the Pennsylvania force, Barry spent some time in Afghanistan. He helped train law enforcement, worked on counter assassination teams, went on missions with troops and much more for about 11 months.
"It was a crazy experience that ended up being wonderful," Barry said. "I have a greater appreciation of what we have in America."
So far, Barry said small town life has been fun.
"It's a nice change of pace. People are nice and friendly here," he said.
So far, Barry said parents have told him they feel safe having him at the school and the students, for the most part, are happy he is there.
One student on Wednesday was asked to leave by the principal because he was cursing people out, including staff. Barry helped escort the student home.
Barry said his biggest concern at the school is building relationships with students, not only does it allow students to view police officers in a positive light, Barry said he hopes that students will come to him if they don't feel safe and dangerous situations can be averted before they happen.
"There is really no downside to having a school resource officer and the potential upside is huge," he said.
Barry said he looks forward to working with the community, students, parents and staff at the school.
"Sheriff Spruell encourages deputies to get involved in the community and being positive role models with the children," Barry said.
Superintendent Scott Cooper was thankful for Barry's addition on the school campus.
"We are looking forward to this addition to the safety and security of our students and staff. He will remain a Montezuma County Sheriff Deputy who will be stationed on our campus every school day. In addition to enhancing security, he will be participating in co-taught safety lessons within our classrooms. I am very grateful this partnership between our district and the Sheriff's Department is underway," he said.