School district prepared for emergencies

School district prepared for emergencies

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Christmas and new year’s celebrations were bittersweet for School District 53 as administrators and teachers grieved for the 20 children who lost their lives in the Connecticut shooting recently.
Superintendent of schools Bev Young said the tragedy is a reminder and an opportunity for the district to review what practices and protocols are in place for student and staff safety.
The district has a critical incidence response team in every school.
“We have recently updated our critical incidence protocols and met with school teams to review them,” Young said.
She noted that schools have emergency preparedness response plans specific to their sites, including risk and threats of intruders and weapons. Schools review the protocols regularly and hold practice drills with students at least twice a year.
“I have asked each principal to review their school safety plan and other associated procedures with their staff,” Young said.
The superintendent added that schools met with their on-site team to discuss potential needs that may emerge at individual schools in the wake of the tragedy. Teachers have been provided with tips in offering support to their students who initiate conversation or concern. In addition, some schools have sent home strategies for parents.
If parents have questions, they are invited to speak to their school principal about specific details.
“I must reiterate that while such an event in our schools is highly unlikely, we are vigilant in preparing for emergencies of many kinds including intruders, fire, earthquakes and weapons,” Young said.
Assistant superintendent Jim Insley said each school is slightly different in how it handles a lockdown, but essentially the announcement “lockdown” is made over the PA system and everything is immediately locked down, including the classrooms until the police advise otherwise. He noted most classroom doors have locks on them, but some don’t.
Teachers stay in the classroom with their students (or other place of safety).
During the day, most schools lock all doors other than the front door, which is usually monitored by the office, Insley said.
“It’s scary to think that something like this could happen in your own backyard . . . it’s unfathomable . . . but we can never keep children 100 per cent safe; we can’t bubble wrap them.”
It was reported that the Connecticut school was locked, but the shooter forced his way into the building.
David Foster, principal of Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary School, said they are all horrified by the shooting and thoughts are now turned towards the safety of Oliver students. But Foster said the potential for such an incident taking place at Tuc-el-Nuit is extremely low.
“In response to the incident our school staff has reviewed our school safety protocols and our emergency preparedness plan. We are up to date and vigilant.”
Foster said staff members have been advised not to initiate conversation about the Connecticut incident, but be prepared to answer questions if they come up.
Foster said parents need to be careful to protect children from exposure to news media images and stories about the shooting. “Also, listen and watch for signs as your child may need more support.”
Mike Safek, principal of Oliver Elementary School, confirmed they have emergency protocols in place. For example, if a crisis occurs, he announces “lockdown” over the PA system and teachers and students stay in their classrooms until they have been told it is safe to come out.
The following are tips for parents and guardians to support children in times of grief:
Demonstrate your natural concern calmly and in your own words.
Spend time with your child. Attempt to distract your child by reading, walking, going to a movie, etc.
Let your child express his/her thoughts, concerns, feelings and perceptions in a nonjudgmental, emotionally safe environment.
Talk about what you know in short statements. Don’t be afraid to admit that you do not have all of the answers. Do not speculate.
Your child will look to you for reassurance. Do not convey your own feelings of hopelessness, but rather let your child know that they will get through this difficult period.
Physical and verbal comforts are great healers.
Children will often complain of headaches, stomach aches, back aches, etc. Monitor physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, anxiety, and sleep disturbance and determine whether medical intervention is required.
As much as possible, attempt to provide normalcy to your child. Humans are creatures of habit and derive comfort from regular routines.
When appropriate, your child should be directed to community support agencies for any help they can offer.

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