A statement to the Windsor-Severance Re-4 District community on the home page of the school district’s website last week informed everyone about the district’s safety plans regarding the schools and buses.
The statement was in response to the elementary school shooting that killed 20 students and six staff members in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. The note to the community emphasized that the safety plans aren’t because of any threats in the district but are an ongoing measure to reassure everyone that the district is a safe place.
The district sent its condolences to all the victims, families and school staff members affected by the shooting in Newtown.
The statement said the district is working closely with law enforcement agencies, and that Windsor police will have increased patrols at the schools.
“Principals have reviewed safety protocols and are increasing visibility in buildings through closer supervision from staff members or volunteers such as the district’s Watch D.O.G.S. program,” the district statement said. “Each building also has safety precautions in place as needed for the particular facility.”
The statement also said that anyone who has a child struggling with the events in Connecticut can contact the school counselor or psychologist so that help can be provided.
With rumors that something bad was going to happen at Windsor High School on Friday, and with the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world, students at the school were concerned. There were no incidents at the high school, said Windsor High School Principal Michelle Scallon.
Windsor sophomore Spencer Hart, 15, said he wasn’t going to school Friday.
“It’s stressful to have those things and worry about that,” Spencer said.
Scallon said it was business as usual at the high school.
“It was awesome. We had a great day,” said Scallon after school Friday. “No incidents. All is calm. All is bright. I was singing for the kids as they came in. We were singing holiday carols. It was a good atmosphere.”
Scallon said recruiters from the Army, Navy and Marines were on hand as scheduled for recruitment day, and a Windsor police officer was in the building all day.
“There were significant absences today, but a lot of those were prearranged with holiday travel,” said Scallon, of the 42 percent of the students who were absent.
Re-4 Superintendent Karen Trusler said the last day of school before Christmas break went as planned.
“I was at all the schools today and saw a variety of activities from play productions to students completing tests,” Trusler said. “The day went well. Many parents were at schools as well because of classroom parties and student presentations. Windsor High School had 58 percent students in attendance. Districtwide, we were at 76 percent. Skyview Elementary had the highest percentage of 90 percent in attendance.”
Windsor Middle School assistant principal Dick Thomas said he doesn’t worry about a copycat incident.
“We just want to make sure we’re taking our steps that we can take as far as safety and security,” Thomas said. “We take the steps that we can do to make sure that we are a safe place, and that we are being aware. I think that’s what we’re responsible to make sure we do for our students, and I think we’re doing that.”
Scallon said she sent an email to her teachers following the Newtown shooting.
“We all are mourning the loss of those lives in Connecticut,” Scallon said. “I just asked the teachers as we are all mourning together, to do what they do best and that is to teach, and to try to comfort our kids and try to reassure our kids.”
Trusler said it gives the district time to pause and reflect about the district’s procedures and plans when a tragedy such as Newtown occurs, as well as connecting with the police, fire district, businesses and parents.
“We did review those protocols, and we did talk about it,” Trusler said. “We also talked about what support families need at this time, and staff members need just as they reflect on this horrific tragedy. It is a senseless tragedy. You can’t put it in words. It’s just horrible. These are our children. That’s what’s most precious. You can’t make sense of it.”
Trusler said every school in the district has some unique features in order to gain access into the buildings.
“Each building looks a little bit different as to how they secure the building and whether it’s through a locked door or increased supervision,” Trusler said.
Windsor Police Chief John Michaels said the police station is in the perfect location to respond to calls at the schools.
“The advantage is we built this police department right across the street from our schools,” Michaels said. “How many people are going to the middle school and high school? Eighteen hundred? Our two biggest schools are across the street from the police department. For our size, police officers are coming in and out of here all the time during the day, and there are always officers here that our response time would be very quick. The kids know where we’re at. They see us. We’re not an unknown quantity in this community. We’re a very visible quantity.”
Principals have reviewed safety protocols and are increasing visibility in buildings through closer supervision from staff members or volunteers such as the district’s Watch D.O.G.S. program. Each building also has safety precautions in place as needed for the particular facility.”
Windsor-Severance Re-4 District statement