CRESTVIEW — Walker Elementary School Owls will assist with fundraising efforts for a fourth Crestview Police Department K9 officer.

Police Chief Tony Taylor met recently with Walker Elementary Principal Lorna Carnley, Assistant Principal Lori Wagner and student council adviser Elizabeth Springle to discuss a partnership that began with a classroom full of third-graders who fell in love with a Crestview PD K9 officer.

Having received the approval of the Okaloosa County School District, the Police Department will partner with the school in several areas this coming school year.

Walker is less than a mile east of the agency’s Whitehurst Municipal Building headquarters on Stillwell Boulevard. The main project under the partnership is a school-wide fundraiser for a fourth Police Department K9 unit. Including training for the K9 and its partner, the cost can be as much as $18,000. The year-long community outreach will involve Walker students, faculty and staff.

“This is going to be a great project,” Carnley said. “We are so excited.”

The project grew from a May visit to Liz Bears’ class by K9 Officer Sonic and his partner, Officer Jay Seals. During a Q&A, someone asked if the Police Department plans to get more K9s. Seals said the agency’s goal is to add a fourth dog so that each shift can be covered by a K9 unit.

Bears immediately said her class would be interested in doing a fundraiser. Carnley, who was also in the room, jumped on the idea and suggested the effort could be school-wide.

Should the fundraiser be a success, the new dog will, of course, be named “Walker.”

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Taylor said. “What we’ll be raising money for is a full-blown patrol dog that will do tracking and drug detection.”

Other areas in which the Police Department could potentially work with Walker include providing the Police Department’s Honor Guard for patriotic programs such as the school’s Nov. 9 Veterans Day observance, and a mentoring program for at-risk kids.

Wagner said the school has several boys who have made bad choices and are in a program for kids who get in trouble. A police officer would be a perfect role model and mentor for those boys, she said.

“We need someone who can remind them there are good choices and there are bad choices,” Wagner said.

During Walker’s open house, the Police Department staffed an information table at which members of the Crestview Citizens Police Academy Alumni group, which handles fundraising for the Police Department, Chief Taylor, new police recruits, K9 Sonic and Seals helped to drum up excitement for the project.

Sonic proved a popular addition to the event, during which many Owls stopped to pet his soft fur and even the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ mascot, Koozy, posed for a photo.

“We are enthused about our new partnership with the Walker Owls, and welcome the opportunity to work with any of our other Crestview schools,” Taylor said.