In the wake of the tragic mass-shooting in Newtown, Conn. last Friday, area school districts are taking steps to prevent a similar event from happening here.
All of the districts The Sun spoke with have plans in place to deal with similar issues, but all of the superintendents said the shooting in Connecticut provided a reminder to check over the plans and make sure they are as current as possible.
“It doesn’t change things 180 degrees, but it makes us more aware of plans put in years ago and more conscience of why those plans were put in,” said Frontier Central School District Superintendent James Bodziak. “It makes it all the more pertinent.”
Communication between local police agencies and the school districts has been on-going, the superintendents said, with several districts meeting with police before students returned to school Monday. In North Collins specifically, a planned faculty day Friday will now include training on dealing with a gunman, said North Collins Central School District Superintendent Benjamin A. Halsey.
“Our meeting Friday will incorporate training with the state troopers,” he said.
All of the districts have cameras and buzzers in place, to keep unwanted guests out of the school.
“We’re servicing our equipment and making sure people are asking the right questions,” said Eden Central School District Superintendent Ronald K. Buggs.
One issue the districts are dealing with is how to broach the subject with younger elementary students, who may not know what happened, or fully understand what happened. Some parents may have been shielding their children from the news, Bodziak said, but the kids will likely hear about it from their peers.
At Frontier schools, teachers were instructed not to bring up the situation, but to let students talk about it if they wanted to, Bodziak said.
Counselors were on-hand at all of the schools, the superintendents said, for students as well as faculty and staff.
At Lake Shore Central Schools, principals at the different schools held early-morning meetings Monday with staff to discuss resources and identify staff qualified to deal with any mental health issues that may arise, said Lake Shore Central School District Superintendent James Przepasniak.
“A lot of our response was internal for staff,” he said. “We’re maintaining a sense of normalcy.”
Bus drivers in the Lake Shore district were also instructed on how to deal with students who may have been upset at the bus stop or on the way to school.
“Drivers also received a paper copy of appropriate information in case any children were questioning anything,” Przepasniak said. “I talked to some bus drivers, and everything was normal.”
Several districts placed calls to the community to reassure parents or provided resources on district websites. Hamburg, for instance, listed several websites parents could visit for additional help, should they need it.
“Each person responds differently in times of difficulty,” the website reads. “Staff in the Hamburg schools are prepared to help students who are struggling with the events that took place.”
While the districts try to maintain normalcy, there is a sense that things have changed, said Hamburg Central School District Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch.
“It’s gone as well as you can expect it to go,” he said, referring to the school week. “There is a sadness and sensitivity surrounding us now.”
Despite the preparations, it’s difficult to stop someone when they’re determined to act, Brodziak said.
“If someone is bent on causing chaos, all the cameras in the world won’t stop them,” he said.
Even so, schools continue to be a safe place for parents to send their children, Halsey said, but it’s important to try to stop things before they happen.
“That’s the key,” he said.
In the end, the tragedy serves as a reminder, Achramovitch said.
“It’s also a reminder that we need to take care of one another,” he said. “We need to respond to our students and be sensitive to one another.”