In the wake of the horrific shooting tragedy at neighboring Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14, Brookfield educators and administrators are taking extra precautions while trying to retain as much normalcy as possible.
Krys Salon, interim principal at Center Elementary School (CES), said the “core teaching team” came in early Monday morning to talk about Friday’s incident and review a “two-tiered plan” on how to get through the first day back and the coming weeks ahead. That plan was communicated to parents in an email blast over the weekend and includes allowing children a time and place to express themselves without disrupting the classroom environment.
“We have to be very careful,” Salon explained, as “the children we have are very young,” in grades pre-k through first.
Teachers began the day Monday with a “very gentle talk with the children,” she said, telling them “we knew something bad had happened but that the adults were all here for them.”
Salon said that students were also offered the option to speak with teachers and counselors in private but that they did not have teachers lead an involved class discussion on the shooting.
“Some kids need to just play and be happy in school,” she said, stating the focus should be on learning and encouraging a safe, fun environment. “Really, our job today was to get back into routine… and the kids were very much, ‘OK, back to work.’”
On Friday, upon being told that the schools were on lockdown and hearing bits of information coming in about what was happening in Newtown, Salon said her first reaction “was to make sure my building was safe,” which included a perimeter check and canceling outside recess that afternoon.
As parents were notified, many came to pick their children up, and Salon made special mention of the office and administrative staff who kept everyone calm, helped parents get to their kids early and reorganized the afternoon bus routes to accommodate the cancellation of afterschool activities.
Feeling Secure, Moving Forward
Brookfield police will be patrolling the schools all week, however Center Elementary is “already a very safe school,” Salon asserted, stating that all doors leading outside are kept locked and checked regularly throughout the day by the custodian to make sure they are secured. The only entrance that is used while classes are in session is the double doorway at the front office, through which someone could only gain access if buzzed in by the office.
The Board of Education (BOE) will be dedicating Wednesday night’s scheduled meeting to addressing concerns that have risen from the tragedy, according to board Chairman Ray DiStephan, including the safety of Brookfield’s children.
The board originally planned to hear Superintendent Anthony Bivona’s initial 2013-14 budget proposal (which has been postponed to the January 2 meeting) but instead will give parents time to air their concerns and review the district’s safety procedures.
“We want to recognize what happened, let parents speak, then have a full review of our safety protocols,” he said Monday. “Not just for scrutiny’s sake but to reassure people” that those protocols are in place, as well.
DiStephan said those protocols include regular evacuation and lockdown drills, as well as the double-door system at CES and Huckleberry Hill Elementary School (HHES), but the board will be reviewing them with an eye toward making improvements where possible.
Asked about whether the district would consider placing an officer permanently at each school building, DiStephan noted that not only would the cost likely be prohibitive, but “beyond that, what kind of atmosphere would that create?”
In his assessment, DiStephan said he doesn’t “see the answer as beefing up security in schools — the problem is much deeper than that.” More security would be “another layer but there’s no way to stop someone who wants to cause pain.”
“I hope that parents in the community will come to this in an open way and we’ll work on these problems together,” namely, “security and taking into account the emotional role and taking care of the kids emotionally going forward,” added DiStephan, who is a school social worker by trade,
Speaking about the lockdown in Ridgefield Monday, DiStephan wagered that “for a long, long time people are going to have a very heightened sense of insecurity,” however, “School is still the safest place for your kids,” he said.
For full coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy, click here.