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Schools reach out to parents after Connecticut tragedy

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

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In the wake of the tragic events that unfolded Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., several school districts in Kane County communicated with parents during the weekend about safety measures and counseling services.

At West Aurora School District 129, district spokesman Mike Chapin said the district’s crisis team met Monday, and the district communicated with parents through email during the weekend.

“One thing we’ve been doing is getting information out on how to communicate with children on the tragedy in Connecticut,” he said.

Chapin added that members of the crisis team are represented at each of the district’s schools, and that social workers, crisis team members and principals all are available to talk to parents and students if needed.

He said the district has fielded a number of communications from parents and teachers with concerns about safety.

“We’re focusing on this and having ongoing conversations,” he said.

Many schools emailed families this weekend, some of which included counseling options or an overview of safety measures.

Jeff Schuler, superintendent of Kaneland School District 302, sent a message to families reminding them that “detailed plans are in place at all schools to address crisis situations, if and when they arise.”

Laura Garland, principal at John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn, also sent a message to parents reassuring their children’s safety and included the date of the school’s most recent lockdown drill. She acknowledged that parents may have found it difficult to send their children to school Monday.

Jim Blaney, district spokesman for St. Charles School District 303, said he was at Wild Rose Elementary School in St. Charles earlier in the day Monday, where staff noticed slightly lighter attendance. However, Blaney said he didn’t feel the number of absences was out of the ordinary, given that holiday and cold seasons are here.

He said the district hasn’t changed any of its safety policies, but he felt people were a little more alert.

“When something like this happens, there’s a naturally higher level of alertness,” he said. “But I don’t think there was a level of alertness lacking previously.”

In a message to parents, Barbara Stokke, principal at Wasco Elementary School, said staff met Monday to review safety precautions and discuss how to communicate with students. She said while staff would not speak specifically about the tragedy, the school had a moment of silence.

She said security measures would remain the same but would be strictly enforced, which may result in check-in delays for upcoming special events.

Anne Van Zandt, principal at Fox Ridge Elementary School in St. Charles, also sent out an email that outlined safety measures the school already has in place, including the requirement that all visitors wear badges.

“We would like to remind you to stand in front of the camera on the intercom after ringing the bell so the office staff can see you,” she said in the email.

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