Officers at Leesburg and Beverly Shores elementary schools have worked hard to develop relationships with students. Now they’re hoping those relationships and out-loud messaging can open up conversations.

LEESBURG — Students at two Leesburg schools won’t see the traditional cop car outside their buildings this year.

Instead, they’ll be met with a newly designed police car exclusively made for Leesburg’s school resource officers.

The Leesburg Police Department unveiled the new cars to students at Leesburg and Beverly Shores elementary schools on Monday, showing off an anti-bullying message on cars that display school spirit.

“We wanted them to stand out and be vibrant; we wanted to get the kids’ attention,” said Sgt. Kim Stewart, who handles community services for the agency.

The labels on the cars, which were assigned to the school resource officer at each school, read “BE A BUDDY NOT A BULLY.” The slogan comes from a local anti-bullying program run at Leesburg High School, Stewart said.

They asked Leesburg Rotary Club member David van de Velde, who works with students at LHS on the school’s anti-bullying program, if they could use the slogan to tie the efforts together. Leesburg Police Chief Rob Hicks has worked with the program and the Rotary Club before, Stewart said, so the connection seemed obvious.

The cars also feature mascots and colors for their respective schools: an eagle on a blue car for Leesburg Elementary and a flamingo on a pink car for Beverly Shores. On the side, they feature the names of their drivers, Officers Travonte Kitchen at Beverly Shores and Alberto Venta at LES.

“The whole thing behind it is to give them a sense of pride and ownership of their school,” Stewart said.

The new wraps were paid for through sponsorships, Stewart said, and didn’t cost the department a dime.

Electrical Works of Florida, a local electric company, donated the partial cost and Hunter Signs, which wrapped the vehicles, handled the rest.

Stewart said that when the cars rolled onto campus Monday morning at Beverly Shores, everyone at the drop-off loop fell in love.

“The teachers, the parents, the kids, especially the kids, they all loved it,” Stewart said.

Hopefully, she added, that means they’ll bring them up in interactions with the resource officers.

Officers at each school have worked hard to develop relationships with students, and now they’re hoping those relationships and the out-loud messaging can open up candid conversations about bullying, Stewart said.

Leesburg's move falls in step with similar efforts across Lake County. With the help of a Eustis business owner, anti-bullying, anti-suicide messaging is also being spread in schools through the SpeakOut program, via lanyards and eight vehicles being wrapped in eye-catching decals.