CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha Sheriff John Rutherford made a promise to the Kanawha County Commission when they gave him $30,000 to make safety visits to the county's schools that he would return whatever they didn't use.
So after he told the commission during their Thursday evening meeting that he planned to return $10,476, he was surprised when Commission President Kent Carper and Commissioners Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores told him to keep the money.
The commission gave Rutherford the money in January, just weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to increase police presence in schools.
Deputies made more than 300 three-hour-long visits to the county's schools from February to the end of the school year. They used a little more than $19,000 of the funds given.
"It's been a great program," Rutherford said. "We wanted to thank the commission for giving us that $30,000 and wanted to return the $10,000 we didn't use to show that we didn't waste the money."
In the first few visits deputies just made their presence known, parking their cruisers out front with the blue emergency lights running and greeting teachers, parents and students at the beginning of the school day.
The sheriff's department already has three full-time school resource officers that visit seven schools regularly, but this program expanded the contact students and teachers had with officers.
Rutherford said deputies walked the schools with administrators and talked with them about safety issues, such as which doors should be secured and what to do in the case of an active shooter.
It's an extension of their long running program Operation Graduation Prom Alive, which puts extra officers on patrol during prom and graduation season to make sure the students are safe when they celebrate.
The commissioners applauded the work the sheriff's department did in visiting the schools and making contact with teachers and students.
"People really, really took comfort in that you were doing this," Hardy said. "That was a terrible time right after Newtown. And you know, you can't go out and rebuild every school overnight but you can have experts go out and look at your school."