We are all shocked and saddened by the tragedy that occurred today at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, the citizens of Newton and the countless others whose lives have been touched by this horrible event.
A disturbing incident such as this serves as a painful reminder of how important it is for all us to be prepared should an act of violence or disaster strike our schools or community. Our families can rest assured that we take the safety of our students and staff very seriously. That is why we have a number of plans and procedures for dealing with a variety of dangerous situations, including a lock down drill that we implement in response to the presence of an intruder in our buildings. We practice/review these plans and procedures with our students and staff on a regular basis to ensure that everyone knows how to respond in an emergency (e.g., what announcement to listen for, where to go inside the building, the names and addresses of off-site evacuation locations).
We also have protocols and resources in place that we use to provide parents/guardians with critical updates and information they need in a situation like this. They include the emergency notification system that we utilized last week to let families know about the attempted child abductions. If you did not receive those messages, we encourage you to please make sure your child’s school has your most up-to-date contact information (phone number and e-mail address).
In addition to these plans, procedures and protocols, we have preventive measures such as secured entrances that help us monitor who is coming in and out of our schools. We are in the process of installing swipe card access systems at every building (will be completed after winter break), and are investigating the installation of security cameras at our elementary schools (already installed at the middle schools). We also continue to work closely and collaboratively with the Oak Park Police Department to ensure that the necessary precautions are being taken to protect our students and staff on a daily basis.
At the request of a number of parents/guardians, we instructed our staff members not to discuss today’s incident with our students. We understand and appreciate that many of you would prefer to have the initial conversation about this sensitive subject with your children. With that said, our social workers and psychologists will be available starting on Monday morning should any of our students, staff members or parents/guardians need to talk about what happened today. We have also been informed by the police department that officers will be increasing patrols around our buildings throughout the school day starting this afternoon.
We realize this terrible incident has caused a great deal of apprehension among the members of our community. While we have mechanisms in place to keep our children safe and secure, your vigilance, partnership and perspectives on this critical issue are always welcome and greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time, your attention and your support of our schools.