MASON COUNTY — A week has now passed since 26 lives were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and as a result schools across the country, including Mason County, have used this tragedy to re-examine their own security measures.
Superintendent Suzanne Dickens stated that she and other school officials began reviewing Mason County Schools’ current security procedures first thing Monday morning and have continued to do so throughout the week. Dickens said the schools were on a security alert and they are reviewing and discussing their current emergency plans and looking for any ways they can be improved.
One of the most obvious items when it comes to security is locked doors, and Dickens discussed this procedure, saying that at every Mason County School access has to be granted via a buzzer system at the front door. Dickens also stated most of the school entrances are also double door entrances, and other doors located around the school which lead outside also remain locked at all times. Dickens continued, saying maintenance workers were checking the locking systems, and they were currently discussing locking classroom and other inside doors.
“We are actively working on this,” Dickens said.
Dickens also discussed emergency drills the schools have in place, saying they currently have a shelter-in-place drill, a fire drill and a lockdown drill. Dickens explained the drills’ procedures, noting the shelter-in-place drill involves something potentially harmful in the atmosphere and having the students gather in the hallway or another pre-determined location where there is limited ventilation and no window access.
During the fire drill, the students and staff evacuate the building and gather at a pre-determined location outside of the school, and during the lockdown drill, blinds are pulled and doors are locked and students are secured in their classroom or another pre-determined location.
As far as teachers and other faculty discussing the Newtown tragedy with students, Dickens said each school is handling it on an individual basis. Several schools around the county, as well as other locations, have placed their flags at half-staff.
In addition to educators discussing the tragedy with children, parents are no doubt in the same situation and may be struggling with what to say. The West Virginia Department of Education has posted links on their website to several resources on how to talk to children about the shooting and returning to school following a tragedy such as this. Their website is wvde.state.wv.us.
In addition to reviewing safety and security measures in schools across the country, another trend has gone viral in the hope of honoring the children and adults who passed away in Newtown, Conn., which began with NBC News Correspondent Ann Curry, who asked the question “What can I do?” Curry decided to perform 26 acts of kindness, one for each student and faculty killed, and shared the news via Twitter. The result has been several more photos on social media sites showing of random acts of kindness, such as giving a waiter a 100 percent tip or sending an anonymous Christmas card.
For more on this viral movement to honor the Sandy Hook victims, visit www.facebook.com/26acts, or search #26Acts on Twitter.