The holiday season is a time for much excitement as we spend time with family and friends. It’s become even more precious this year as we reflect on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and honor the twenty beautiful children and six nurturing adults who lost their lives. It is difficult to comprehend what would lead someone to take so many lives, nor can we understand why these individuals, who were so loved by many, had their lives and impact on the world unfairly shortened.
Though this tragedy happened hundreds of miles away, our schools, families and staff members have felt the impact. We’ve heard from many parents in the past few days. School staff members have also visited with students who have wanted to talk about their fears and concerns.
Safety is something we take very seriously in our schools. Over the past 18 months district staff members have been working closely with national school safety experts and local emergency responders to strengthen and enhance current school emergency plans and procedures. Stillwater schools was fortunate to receive a federal Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grant that has provided staff with expert advice, comprehensive training, and revised safety protocols. Information about this safety planning was shared with parents earlier this week.
The Sandy Hook tragedy also taught us that even the best plans may not be enough. With this in mind we will continue this important work. Over the upcoming months school staff will be involved in hands-on and applied exercises aimed at simulating crisis events and practicing our response plans. We will also be undergoing a facilities study process looking at not only needs related to growth, programs and learning environments, but also making our school buildings as safe as they can be.
As a parent I take comfort in knowing that school remains one of the safest places for my children to be. Tragedies such as occurred last week are rare. And with increased vigilance by all of our students, staff and the community we can work together to make our schools even safer.
Over the winter holiday I plan to hold my children a little tighter. I’m also making a conscious effort to not bring work home and to spend as much time as possible with the ones I love. Perhaps this is the best lesson for all of us during this time.
I wish you an enjoyable holiday and a very happy New Year.