Dear Parents and Community Members,
We are all grieving over the senseless and horrific tragedy that occurred in Connecticut. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sandy Hook Elementary School community that was devastated by the loss of their children and educators.
Our children and staff are our most precious resource and to that end, we take this tragedy as a stark reminder of the importance of our safety procedures and our check-in process for all visitors to our schools. We want to take this opportunity to remind all of our families that we conduct regular drills, including those for a building lockdown much like you are hearing described from the surviving children and adults. Because of the different architectural designs of our buildings, we have different front door security measures: the two-door locked hallway system that forces all visitors to enter through the office area to sign in before being allowed access to the hall and the camera/buzzer system that will only allow entrance through the locked front door if the school “buzzes” you access. No matter what the system, all visitors are required to register at the front office. These are just a few of the procedures that we have in place to help ensure student safety and security. We educate staff throughout the year, practice and revise our safety plan and rely on our parents, first responders and the community to help us practice and respond using our safety procedures.
One of the most difficult tasks before all of us is how do we talk to our children and answer their questions, especially when we as adults are asking the same questions. The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends several tips for parents to consider:
Talk with your child -If children ask questions, talking to them about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there and listening to them.
Keep home a safe place -Children, regardless of age, often find home to be a safe haven when the world around them becomes overwhelming. During times of crisis, it is important to remember that your children may come home seeking the safe feeling they have being there.
Watch for signs of stress, fear or anxiety -After a traumatic event, it is typical for children (and adults) to experience a wide range of emotions including fearfulness, shock, anger, grief and anxiety. Your children's behaviors may change because of their response to the event. They may experience trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentrating on schoolwork, or changes in appetite. This is normal for everyone and should begin to disappear in a few months.
Take "news breaks" - Your children may want to keep informed by gathering information about the event from the internet, television, or newspapers. It is important to limit the amount of time spent watching the news because constant exposure may actually heighten their anxiety and fears. Other resources to assist you in talking with your child can be found by clicking on the links below.
Giving your child back a sense of routine is a critical part of “getting back” to normal. Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, stated, “Above all, parents need to try to help their children feel safe. Helping kids return to or maintain normal routines can help minimize their anxiety.”
It is important for children to know that our schools are filled with caring adults who want to make certain they are safe.
Please know that we will be available Monday to assist your children if they have questions. Please also note that our school counselors and psychologists are also available to provide any assistance you may need in talking with your children or answering their questions.
I have called a special meeting today of all Central Office administrators, principals, counselors, members of our local law enforcement and Jon Akers, Executive Director for School Safety, to not only review our own safety procedures but to gather more expertise in helping us be a resource to you, our staff and especially our children.
Our students and your children are our most precious resource and their safety is our priority and we will continue to be ever diligent in that effort.
Patricia Putty, Superintendent