With the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, local education leaders are looking at the best ways of making sure students here in Russellville and Logan County can be kept as safe as possible.
“One thing that we can learn is that no community is insulated from this,” said Russellville schools superintendent Leon Smith. “It’s sad that our country has come to this.”
“These things are rare, but they still occur way too often,” said Logan County schools superintendent Marshall Kemp. “We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve not had people who do these things anyplace near us.”
Even before Friday’s tragedy, school safety in that kind of situation has been on the minds of administrators and teachers.
Lockdown procedures at all the local schools have been implemented for some time now.
“We’ve talked all year about supervision in the hallways, in the classrooms and in the building by our teachers and staff,” Smith said. “Monitoring and supervision has been a focus for us this year, but we are taking an even closer look at it now because this tragic event has picqued our awaressness even more.”
Kemp said that his district will also be looking at its lockdown strategies and making changes, where necessary.
Some of those may include improving the security of doors into the building.
“We have plans to make entrances more secure than they are at the moment,” Kemp said.
In older buildings, like Russellville High School, that can be difficult.
“An old building like that can be a difficult building to secure,” Smith said. “We’re looking now at what can we do in the short term to make it as secure as it can be.”
Smith was in both his schools Monday morning, greeting students, parents and teachers as they came back after having a weekend to hear about the tragic shooting.
“We had some parents at Stevenson in our car rider line telling the teachers, ‘Please take care of my kids,’” Smith said. “One thing I do feel confident about is that our teachers would respond like the ones did at Sandy Hook Elementary. I think they would jump in to help keep their students safe.”
Teachers and staff will also be making sure that the students feel as safe and confident as possible in the school setting.
Smith said he and the central office staff have sent out multiple emails to teachers about how to handle students with questions about the shooting.
“We’ve let them know how to deal with students that have questions about what happened in Connecticut,” Smith said. “Our counsellors are on alert to be ready to deal with these type of issues. Our staff is going to be looking at the needs of students during this time - especially any that appread to be visually upset or are having trouble processing the news of the tragedy.”
Counsellors were also ready and available in all the Logan County schools.
“We’ve offered counselling services with our school psychologist, but nobody has requested that yet,” Kemp said Monday afternoon.
With students being off for a couple weeks over the holidays beginning Wednesday, the break comes at a good time.
“When we get back to school in January, we will be going over our lockdown procedures and practicing them even more,” Smith said. “I don’t want people to be alarmed when they hear we’re doing that, but we feel like it’s important that we do it.
“You ask yourself, what more you can do? There’s no perfect scenario. The different times of the day brings a totally different challenge - whether it’s in the morning as students are arriving, during lunch when you’ve got a cafeteria full of students or at the end of the day as students are preparing to leave.”