For many, Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was cause to grieve, even for those far removed from the event.
For many, Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was cause to grieve, even for those far removed from the event. But for local school officials, the Sandy Hook shooting that to date has claimed the lives of 20 students, 6 and 7 years old, and six adult employees at the school has also caused them to redouble and refocus efforts on school safety. Leavenworth Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Crane said the district sent communication to parents and staff offering condolences to those lost in Newtown and providing lists of resources and strategies for local families to guide discussions on the incident with their children. She said the district is preparing another similar piece of correspondence. Crane said the Leavenworth schools have to strike a balance between keeping families informed and ensuring that for security reasons the emergency plans keep a certain amount of confidentiality. “That’s hard for parents to understand,” she said. The second letter details the district’s ongoing efforts to keep the schools safe. Amy Sloan is in charge the Leavenworth School District’s emergency operations team. With both districtwide and building-level response teams and a plan developed alongisde local public safety officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Sloan said the district is continually testing and enhancing efforts to keep its students out of harm’s way. “That has been in effect for six or seven years,” she said. Students and building staff have regular drills to practice intruder lockdown procedures and staff train continually to find ways to improve the procedures already in place. One recent tabeltop exercise revolved around an armed relative of a district employee entering a building, mirroring the Newtown incident. Though that incident was tragic, Sloan said the district will look for lessons in the event. “We’re going to review what they did and see how we can enhance that,” she said. Randy Bagby, Lansing school superintendent, said the events of last week did highlight some ongoing efforts, like the work districtwide on crisis management training. “It’s certainly put us all on a higher alert status,” he said. On Friday and on Monday, Bagby said local law enforcement officials were in Lansing’s schools, walking around as a sort of reassurance for the students and staff alike. That presence was temporary, Bagby said, though it’s not the only thing that he said the district has done or will be doing. “I really want them to feel content,” he said of parents and students, adding he told parents with concerns that they could take their children home if they felt they needed to. As a result of the recently approved bond issue, all of the district’s buildings will have better controls over access. Xavier Catholic School has given its security a second look in the wake of the Newtown shooting. Barbara Fitzgerald, director of the Leavenworth Regional Catholic Schools, said she did a walk-through of Xavier Catholic School over the weekend. She said the school has a system in which visitors have to be buzzed in by school staff. But one thing that system is lacking is the ability for teachers to lock their classroom doors if the school was placed on lockdown. “They can’t do that from the inside,” she said. So school officials will be placing deadbolts on classroom doors at the Xavier campus on Muncie Road as well as the preschool building. She said this change eventually will be extended to Immaculata High School. Those lessons come at a cost, Bagby said, one that visibly affects local officials even when they happen half a nation away. “There isn’t a child that I look at today that doesn’t make me wonder and think,” he said.