Local schools respond to Sandy Hook tragedy
By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Wed., Dec. 19, 2012
The Stafford Springs community took time out from its Winterfest activities to remember the victims of the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by conducting a vigil following the town parade on Sunday, Dec. 16. Music was performed by the Stafford High School Madrigals, and Pastor Kris Young of Hope Springs Church in Stafford Springs addressed the crowd. Offering words of encouragement, the pastor said that there are brighter days ahead, and that people should remain hopeful about the future.
Following the Dec. 14 shootings that claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 children, school and public safety officials in Stafford Springs have taken steps to increase police presence at Stafford's public schools. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia A. Collin said that following the Sandy Hook incident, parents and guardians received a message via the Stafford Citizen Alert Notification System (SCANS) regarding the steps the district was taking to ensure the safety of students and staff. In addition, principals also spoke with their staff about being vigilant about safety, said Collin, and relevant resources were disseminated to local districts from the state commissioner of education.
Collin emphasized that the Stafford school system, which already has security plans in place, continues to review those plans with emergency personnel on an ongoing basis. “Students and staff have participated in numerous practice drills,” said Collin. “In addition, we were provided with police personnel [on Monday, Dec. 17] in all of our schools.” Collin said public safety personnel would be on-site at public schools and at the after-school program at least through the week, notably during student drop-off and pick-up times. Collin said that public safety officials have been very responsive to the school's immediate desire to step up security, and that dialogue will continue as the school district assesses its security needs on an ongoing basis.
A rumor had circulated about a potential threat to a Stafford school following the Newtown shootings, Collin said, but she had immediately dispelled it. “That was not accurate,” said Collin, who sent out an e-mail to address the rumor and clarify the situation.
Significant at the individual level, the school district has made age-appropriate tips available on its website about how to talk to children and help them cope. “They [parents] were also encouraged to inform the school if their child is exhibiting unusual fears or symptoms so that the school could help,” said Collin. To this end, school psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors and other staff members were prepared to provide additional support to individual students as needed, said Collin. The schools also observed a moment of silence.
Collin said that principals and administrators, as a general practice, are routinely present outside at the drop-off area to greet parents and students. “It's been our practice to do that, just like our staff being available,” said Collin. “School administration and police personnel continue to work collaboratively to address concerns,” she said. “We plan to review our plans with police personnel in the very near future. We're still being proactive in trying to get pieces in place.”
Coincidentally, added Collin, due to renovations at the current downtown location, the local police station had been temporarily re-located to a school property on Levinthal Run, within the school and library district, ensuring police presence there.
Currently, the Stafford school district is focused on normalcy. “As a district, we're trying to maintain our routines, providing structure and predictability for our students, staff and parents,” said Collin.
For more information about the school district and to read the tips on how to talk to children, visit www.stafford.k12.ct.us/pages/Stafford_School_District.