Friday, a lone gunman went into Sandy Hook School Elementary and gunned down 20 children aged six and seven and six staff in what is now the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Here, on P.E.I. educators were shocked by the events south of the border.
“It’s a terrible tragedy. Our hearts are just like stone over the whole incident,” said English Language School Board superintendent Jane McMillan. “In our schools, our job is to model calm and control and reassure children they are safe and that school is safe and remind them that there are trustworthy, good people in charge and that everything is OK.”
Before classes began Monday educators were provided with links to online resource material and information to help them in answering questions raised by students.
Those links are posted on the Eastern School District’s website for parents to access.
McMillan said the actions of the teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary were heroic and the loss of “these beautiful children” devastating.
In Island schools, procedures are in place to deal with emergency situations.
“We do have a very comprehensive lockdown policy, which has been in place since 2008. These policies originated as part of the National Safe Schools Campaign that was led by the RCMP and by municipal police forces across the country,” explained McMillan. “The policy requires that our schools practice a lockdown twice a year. There’s a very specific procedure for undertaking the lockdown. Our schools are well versed in it.”
She’s confident that staff at all Island schools are confident in these procedures and know exactly what to do in the case of an emergency.
But, added McMillan, “In the case of the tragedy that just happened it’s very difficult to plan for every eventuality.”
“I think the staff acted as quickly and heroically as anyone could imagine to try and save as many children as they could.”
Lockdown drills have already been held at many Island schools already this year.
“We would certainly be mindful of having one very quickly in the new year. We always have one in the first term and one in the second term and we will be reminding our schools of our lockdown procedures,” said McMillan. “We want our schools to be safe environments for our children. We understand how important that is for our school community.”
She encourages parents to be mindful of their children’s concerns in light of the events in Newtown and to take a little extra time to spend with their children.
“Make time for them, maintain a normal routine, spend a little extra time reading or playing quite games, just being close and giving the message everything is OK, I’m still here, your school is still here and you’re safe.”