By Rob Glidden
Area school districts are working to restore some stability in the classrooms and reassure parents about safety, in the wake of a devastating mass shooting in Newtown.
“We spent the weekend preparing for the return of students,” said Plainville Superintendent Jeff Kitching. “The sooner we could get them back to normalcy, the better. We have crisis teams in every school to make sure there’s available help for people coping with what happened.”
After the news broke on Friday morning and more unsettling details about the incident were revealed over the course of the day, reports of other schools in the state going into lockdown became common. Before the weekend ended, Southington school officials invited parents to an event where school safety would be discussed.
“Last evening, over 300 parents participated in an ongoing dialogue regarding safety,” said Southington Superintendent Dr. Joseph Erardi, in a statement issued on Monday. “The best plan moving forward includes a review of our entire present practice pertaining to safety, and perhaps more importantly, having continued relationships with every student and staff member in the district.”
He added that it had been a “difficult and busy” weekend, but expressed confidence in the district’s staff and invited concerned parents to contact him with any questions.
Many years worth of violent incidents at American schools have led to steady increases in safety measures at the buildings. The shooting was a reminder to many educators of why they constantly practice lockdown and evacuation procedures. School principals typically go over evacuation procedures regularly and lockdown procedures are reviewed several times a year.
While this latest tragedy will certainly have administrators across the state and the nation discussing potential improvements, Kitching expressed confidence in the current protections in his school district.
“The idea that all we have at the schools is a doorbell is a common misconception,” Kitching said. “The entrances to the schools are locked and are all equipped with security cameras. The front office always knows who is coming into the schools. We had a lot of responses from parents wanting to be reassured that we will stick to our safety procedures.”
On Monday afternoon, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents released a statement affirming that “the people of Connecticut have every right to expect that schools will be safe and secure places for children and for the staff members who serve them.”
To that end, the group plans to focus on “developing its own position and recommendations on this subject and will be working with education and public policy groups to address these issues. The caretakers of the education system and those who support public education need to be among the leaders of what must be both a statewide and a national conversation.”
A report from the Waterbury Republican-American was used in this story.