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Waltham School Chief Issues Letter On Newtown Shooting

The Waltham Public Schools say the district has the right procedures in place to keep students safe.

Waltham School Chief Issues Letter On Newtown Shooting

The Waltham Public Schools recently sent the following to the Waltham community in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was sent on Dec. 17

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Dear Parents/Guardians:

In light of the tragedy in CT, the principals, school adjustment counselors, guidance counselors, and Central Office personnel reviewed resources/research over the week-end that would assist us in generating a district plan fof meeting the needs of students and staff. We met this morning at 6:15 a.m. to discuss a district approach to this unexplainable tragedy. The details of the plan are included at the bottom of this letter for your review. Additionally, resources were posted on the district website Saturday morning, a message was sent to all homes alerting parents/guardians to review our website, and resources were emailed to district staff about what to say and do for children in school and at home. More resources will be posted this morning.

We understand that not all parents discussed the tragedy with their children. We also understand that there will be many other students who are fully aware of the tragedy. We want to be sensitive and supportive to all students and respectful of parents, but our reality is that as we open the school house doors today, we will be faced with the challenge of balancing very different knowledge bases of information and emotions. We recognize and support the importance of maintaining structure and stability within our schools not only for our students but also for our staff

It is important for you to know that our teachers and administrators are trained in lockdown techniques. However, after careful consideration, we decided not to review lockdown procedures today with our students. We recognize that our kindergarten and grade 1 students are not as familiar with lockdowns as students in other grades are, and we did not want to heighten anxiety. Therefore, our plan is to review loekdown procedures tomorrow with our students.

Here is the district plan for the week:

1.  At the elementary level, administrators will have an increased presence before and after school.

2.   At the secondary level, administrators and school resource officers will have an increased presence before and after school.

3.  There will be an increased presence of patrol cars around our schools.

4.   Administrators will ask custodians to ensure that all exterior school doors remain locked.

5.  Administrators will review with their secretaries the protocols to buzz visitors into the schools. However, we will have some challenges on Thursday with scheduled concerts at Fitzgerald and MacArthur. We will be as vigilant as possible, but we do expect many family members and friends to attend these two concerts.

6.  Teachers will review lockdown procedures today.

7.  Teachers will review lockdown procedures with students tomorrow.

8.  At the elementary level, using the Open Circle format, teachers will facilitate a review of safety procedures. If students bring up specific information about the tragedy, the teacher will refocus the student on safety procedures. If the student exhibits a heightened sense of concern about the tragedy, he/she will be referred to the school adjustment counselor. This protocol will be in place for all students at all levels in the district.

9.   The consistent message that all students will hear from staff today includes:

a.   You are safe.

b.   We have a plan in place to make sure you are safe.

c.   Any expression of sadness will be acknowledged.

10. At the secondary level, teachers will convey the same message to all students about being safe and that we have a plan to make sure they are safe.

11. Principals will call my office at noon today and let me know how the day is progressing. Guidance counselors at all levels have reviewed the guidelines from the National Association of School Psychologists as well as other resources and are prepared to assist at all levels in the district if their counseling services are needed.

12. The administrators will meet at 3:30 p.m. today to assess how the day went and will be prepared to make any necessary adjustments for tomorrow.

13. We will continue to work with our school safety officer and our school resource officers to be proactive in our approach to student and staff safety.

14. The School Crisis Staff Handbook has recently been reviewed by School Safety Officer Ann Frassica and Director of Nursing Marie DeSisto.

15. A hard copy of this letter will be sent home with every student. The letter will also be translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole.

16. Hard copies of this letter will be sent home tomorrow to our pre-school students.

17. A Connect Ed call will be sent out to all families alerting them to look for a hard copy of this letter.

18. This letter will be posted on the district website. Additional resources for parents to reference will also be posted.

I want to assure you that I believe the proper procedures are in place to keep our students as safe as possible. If you have any questions/concerns, please do not hesitate to call me or your child’s principal. 

Sincerely, 

Susan M. Nicholson, Superintendent


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