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School officials mindful of safety, emotions

December 17, 2012

Before students returned to school Monday, Starkville School District educators and administrators said they already knew how important the first day back to work would be following Friday’s massacre which killed almost 30 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Both Diane Baker and Lisa Thompson, principals of two SSD elementary schools, said returning their students to a sense of normalcy in the classroom was their primary goal yesterday; however, normalcy yesterday also meant offering counseling services to any student who appeared upset following Friday’s events and also double checking respective building’s safety systems and protocols.

School officials across the nation increased patrols and went over security plans as students and educators returned to class Monday.

In Starkville, SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway personally observed many of the district’s kindergarten classes as students and teachers went on with their usual routines.

“I didn’t see any students who were upset, but being a 6-year-old child, events like this are almost beyond comprehension — it’s still almost beyond comprehension for adults,” he said.

Besides support for her students, Thompson said messages of support have been given to educators at her school, Sudduth Elementary, and to others throughout the district.

“We tell our teachers that the best way to keep children emotionally safe is for our teachers to be emotionally safe. We let them know that the way they react is how children will react,” she said. “We’re working hard to take care of all of our students’ needs and we’re trying to make sure they know we are doing everything we can so this will never happen again.”

In addition to in-school counseling and security checks, the district also sent an AlertNow email to all employees and parents saying the school system is renewing collaborative efforts with local agencies to create a united effort for school safety.

“While law enforcement officials believe this is an isolated incident, it is a stark reminder of the importance of our safety procedures,” the AlertNow email stated, “... and we take seriously our responsibility to ensure the safety of your child every day.”

“Our schools are sometimes the safest place our kids are at all day,” Holloway added. “We take pride in that.”

The district also provided counseling tips for parents on its website yesterday, in addition to a contact number for further information or assistance.

“I did receive an email from a parent who actually just said she wanted to take the opportunity to tell us how much she appreciated us and what we do for children here in Starkville School District,” Baker, the principal of Ward Stewart Elementary School, said. “The thing we have to understand is we’re living in a time where these terrible things do happen. We have our protocols — and it’s unfortunate that we have to do this — but we’re going to do everything we can do to make sure our children are safe.”

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