The Union Police Department, in conjunction with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol, are gearing up for the spring Open Doors Program in area schools.

Open Doors began in 2017 as a way to encourage positive relationships between law enforcement and students. On-duty personnel gather at Union schools to open car doors and school doors for students, as well as give them high-fives, fist bumps and a friendly smile first thing in the morning.

“I think this program has been very beneficial in closing the gap between law enforcement and students,” said School Resource Officer Rick Neace. “Being there for the kids when they get to school has built closer relationships.”

Neace said that even though they’re simple gestures, students see that officers care about them.

“We’re more approachable. They see that we care about them and that we want to be there for them and help them,” he said.

Since the program began in the Union School District, it has expanded to county schools as well.

The Union rotation begins April 3.

The schedule is as follows:

April 3 — Clark-Vitt Elementary;

April 10 — Immaculate Conception School;

April 17 — Central Elementary; and

April 24 — Beaufort Elementary.

Officers will be at the schools from 7 to 8 a.m.

In addition to Open Doors, officers and law enforcement also have visited Union Middle School and Union High School for a similar program called Connection Point, as well as implemented an early childhood program, “Kookies With Kops.”