The tragic events of this past week when 20 students and six adults killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has saddened local school superintendents, who are also continuing to look at secuuity efforts in their own districts.
As the sad news continued to be received throughout the week, many in the area were completely without words as they tried to understand why anyone would hurt others in this way-- especially defenseless, innocent children With the Christmas and new year's holidays just around the corner, the senseless act seemed to be even more painful for everyone, even those of us who did not personally know any of the victims or their family members. Many thought of hugging their own children and using the words "I love you" a lot more often than we aleady do.
Even those of us who have a strong faith in God and know that He is in control of this world, wondered why this horrible evil was allowed to enter into the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Special prayer for the friends and family of all the victims, the Newtown community and entire nation was given at many of the church services on Sunday.
The Press-News staff asked area school superintendents for comments about this tragedy, as well as information about what security efforts are taking place in their schools. Below are a few of the comments received.
OSNABURG LOCAL SCHOOLS
"The East Canton School community, along with the world as a whole, is deeply saddened by the events at Sandy Brook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Our heart goes out to everyone involved in this tragedy. We realize the events of last Friday may cause lingering concerns in the minds of our students and parents. We want to reassure everyone that our greatest priority is to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for our staff and students," Marconi said about the tragedy and the effects it might have on local students.
About security, she said, "Certainly, safety will be even more in the forefront of our minds as we begin school this week. However, it should be noted that our district routinely practices lockdown, fire and tornado drills with all levels of staff and students. These drills are in line with state regulations concerning school safety. The East Canton fire and police departments are involved in all of our drills. We will continue to have open communication regarding safety with all concerned parties in the Village and Township."
The superintendent added that the school's "student leadership will meet this week to determine what the East Canton schools would like to do to reach out to the students, parents and community of Newtown, Connecticut."
CANTON LOCAL SCHOOLS
"The tragic events of Sandy Hook Elementary give each of us pause to send our thoughts and prayers to the entire community of Newton, Conn., and to give our own children an extra tight hug or caring smile today," Redmond said. "On Friday evening at our basketball game, the Canton Local community had a moment of silence and prayer delivered by pastor David Taylor. Our American flags will be flown at half-mast for the remainder of the week and we will address the individual needs/questions of staff and students as they arise."
The superintendent went on to address safety and security policies, which she said are reviewed regularly. "We conduct periodic practices with staff and students and review what worked well and what needs to change. Certainly this recent event will again have us review and change our practices as we work with law enforcement in our county to ensure we are doing everything we can to be safe.
"Our schools were built in a time when architects and school officials did not need to think about the kinds of safety and security issues we do in the year 2012. Certainly, our school designs present unique challenges to us that surrounding school districts do not have. We are in the process of changing how any visitor to Faircrest Memorial Middle School or Walker Elementary enters the building as we add a 'buzzer' system. This system will delay entry into the buildings as it allows for a staff member to see who is coming in and accepting (or denying) their entry. While this may not be the warmest of welcomes into our schools, it will allow us to be a more safe and secure learning environment."
This is also a portion of the information Redmond has on the Canton Local website:
Providing your children with a safe place to learn is a top priority. We would like to share with you the well-planned safety and security measures we have in place.
• Good Relationships with local safety forces
The Canton Local Schools maintain a solid, cooperative partnership with local police and fire departments. These safety forces meet regularly with school officials in a proactive environment to insure the safety and security of Canton Local students and staff. The safety forces also take part in school staff safety training. People from the local police and fire departments often spend time in the District interacting with students.
• Safety Committee
The Canton Local Administrative Team meets regularly to discuss safety and security issues throughout the District.
• School Resource Officer - Officer Brinkman
In a proactive approach by Canton Local Schools and the Stark County Sherriff's office, Officer Brinkman has been assigned to work in the District as a school resource officer. He interacts with students daily, educates them on various issues, makes himself available to students who have a concern and resolves conflicts.
• Safety Drills
In an effort to make sure our students and staff are well prepared in case of an emergency, every school holds regularly scheduled safety drills, including tornado drills, fire drills, evacuation drills and shelter-in-place drills. Building staff evaluates the effectiveness of each drill and determines if any adjustments need to be made.
In addition, local safety forces often partake in the evacuation drills and shelter-in-place drills. They also enhance their knowledge of the campus by using buildings and schools for safety and security training.
• Safety Assistance Hotline: Stay Safe Speak UP! (1-866-LISTEN2ME)
The Canton Local Schools Safety Assistance Hotline is available for students to call if they know of anyone threatening violence or bullying. All calls are confidential and anonymous.
Security cameras are strategically placed in several locations throughout the district. These cameras display and record video that can be viewed by District administrators. School officials and local police can also use these videos when investigating any incidents. Telephones are located in classrooms.
• Emergency/Crisis Plans
Canton Local Schools Emergency/Crisis plans that were submitted to the state are well thought out. Every location on Campus is detailed in a way that is thorough and easy for safety forces and school officials to understand. Local police and fire officials have reviewed the District crisis plans and shared their input as well.
• Student Programs
It is important for people to feel connected and a part of their community. We believe in providing students with the opportunity to be heard if they are struggling with a situation.
Programs such as Emerging Leaders (FMMS), Student Leadership (South), SADD, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes as well as all of our extra curricular opportunities for students to make connections with others and highlight the importance of being kind to one another.
SDLqThe thoughts and prayers of the Sandy Valley community and school district go out to the entire Sandy Hook Family," said superintendent Janofa. "We have a number of student groups discussing ways in which we could demonstrate our support for the many families that have been directly or indirectly effected by this tragedy.
"The discussions we have had with our students have been very general in a sense.'
Janofa went on to say that with the "tremendous amount of sensitivity with all people young and old" his staff did not want to in any way add to the fears and anxieties of those at Sandy Hook.
"We all are trying to be sensitive to the needs of children," he said.
Janofa said the safeguards at Sandy Valley are evaluated on a continual basis.
" We actually have a Safety Team Meeting scheduled for today (Dec. 18) to review and self assess. We all try to do the best we can. We take all precautions possible to protect our children. Safety is our priority and we are devoted to do the very best we can.
"We will reach out in some form or another over the next few weeks I am sure. We also want to be sensative to the situation the families are currently dealing with regarding the media and world focus as they try to understand why their own loved ones will not be returning home."