Staffers within the Westerville City School District want Westerville police to know they stand with them now, and will do so always.
After veteran officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli responded to a hang-up 911 call on Feb. 10 in the 300 block of Cross Wind Drive, they were shot by an occupant of an apartment and died of their wounds.
District staffers soon took to social media by posting on Twitter, "Our collective hearts are broken. We have an amazing partnership with the @WestervillePD. They keep our staff and students safe by partnering on our safety plans. We are better at what we do because of their involvement. We stand with you during this difficult time and always."
Our collective hearts are broken. We have an amazing partnership with the@WestervillePD. They keep our staff and students safe by partnering on our safety plans. We are better at what we do because of their involvement. We stand with you during this difficult time and always.— Westerville Schools (@WCSOH)February 10, 2018
On Feb. 12, students and staffers wore blue to continue a community effort that started over the weekend as one way to demonstrate support.
"We wanted to continue that today with students and staff wearing blue to show support," said Tami Santa, a district assistant program coordinator who also oversees the crisis team.
She said the district continues to look for ways to support the police as well as students and families during this traumatic time.
Deputy Superintendent Mark Hershiser said all schools observed moments of silence the morning of Feb. 12 to remember the officers.
The district's transportation department divided its bus fleet in half, evenly designating buses with the officers' badge numbers, 509 and 467, on their placards.
Santa said ribbons and signs are on display throughout school properties to support the police department.
She said there are banners, cards and plans for fundraisers, with some student-led ideas among them.
"We're being supportive and unified on that front," she said.
Santa said the student response is its own story, showing what law enforcement means through the students' eyes.
"It made an impact as they create their own ideas and think thoughtfully about what we can do," she said.
"It's a beautiful thing to watch. We'll continue to take a pulse and which avenue to pay tribute. We'll work with police to see how to deliver all these things," she said.
Hershiser said the partnership is strong between the schools and police department, and every year he's amazed at how it strengthens.
"I think that's due to officers like Joering and Morelli," he said. "Not only are they great at their jobs, but their dedication to the community and schools has been incredible."
Hershiser said both officers always had a strong interest in the schools and would do anything to ensure the safety of the schools and community.
He said he worked with Morelli for many years when Morelli was a school resource officer at Blendon Middle School
Joering often was surrounded by youth at special events he attended with his K-9 partner, Sam.
"During this incredibly difficult time for the officers with the police department, they're all in our thoughts and prayers," Hershiser said. "We're here in that partnership working on a daily basis. We're here to help them in any way we can to support them."
As a crisis group, Santa said, the district is on a higher alert this week to support school buildings.
"As we navigate this difficult week, we have extra eyes on our students and how this tragedy has impacted them," she said. "We wanted that support to be there. We have a great in-house team. We want to continue to monitor how our students and families are doing.
"We're having conversations within our district to provide the support that's needed for our students who are impacted," she said.
"Our hearts go out to the Joering and Morelli families in this time," Hershiser said. "We as a district will do what we can to support them as well."