Written by Pete Sheehan Friday, 21 December 2012 00:00
In the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, CT, Oyster Bay area schools responded to students’ and parents’ concerns.
“It’s an unspeakable tragedy,” said Phyllis Harrington, superintendent for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District. “We feel a personal connection,” because she knows the superintendent of the school district where the shootings took place.
School administrators in Oyster Bay-East Norwich and Locust Valley are taking a multi-faceted approach: Maintaining a sense of normalcy, supporting students with stress or fears, and emphasizing security.Both districts posted information on their websites.
“Parents may want to limit their children’s access to details of the tragedy and to related media reports,” wrote Dr. Anna Hunderfund, superintendent of the Locust Valley Central School District, in a letter on the district’s website.
“Our guidance counselors and psychologists will be available to provide support, answer questions and address concerns,” she continued.
“Educators will let children know it is okay to feel upset or angry and will be good listeners and observers,” Harrington said. “They will provide ways for children to express emotion.”
Harrington noted that the Oyster Bay-East Norwich district varied its approach toward younger students in the district’s primary and middle schools — Roosevelt and Vernon.
“We decided not to have a moment of silence with these younger students,” Harrington said, so as not to draw attention to the tragedy.
When a few students at Vernon, which includes grades three through six, were talking about the shootings before school, she said, “the principal redirected them.” Students at Roosevelt or Vernon who raised these issues have been encouraged to speak to the principal or the school’s social worker or psychologist.
At Oyster Bay High School, Harrington said, principal Dr. Dennis O’Hara led a moment of silence. The students also have access to the school’s psychologist and social worker.
On Monday afternoon, Harrington had her regular weekly meeting with district administrators. “Everything seems to be 1,000 percent business as usual.”
In addition, both superintendents emphasized the importance of security procedures.
Harrington noted that for all three Oyster Bay-East Norwich schools the doors are locked at the start of the day and are controlled through an electronic access system. Monitors at the entrances identify visitors before they are admitted. Visitors must sign in and wear a visitor’s pass. Staff members also must wear ID tags.
Video cameras are mounted inside and outside the schools, she saod. There is continuing staff training, drills, and review of procedures.
“These shootings,” Harrington said, “have made us even more aware of the need to follow our procedures.”