Grief counseling was available in all Vineyard public schools Monday, three days after the elementary school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., that left the country in shock and sadness.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said teachers had been briefed on how to respond to children’s questions about the tragedy. But while the shooting may result in changes to school security in the future, the goal for this week, principals and teachers said, was to provide as normal a week as possible for the children.
“We’re being wary of any deliberate meetings but also validating our own fears and the children’s fears,” said Oak Bluffs principal Richard Smith. “We’re demonstrating good judgment and taking care of those kids who are highly anxious.
“It’s like every place in the country. There’s a pit in your stomach. There is a deep sadness for what went on and a desire to pull your kids closer to you. But we have to support our children from a school standpoint and get into the normal rhythm of a day.”
Mr. Smith said he had sent an email to parents on Friday informing them that the administration and guidance department would be available to address parents’ and children’s concerns.
Edgartown School principal John Stevens said he has also sent a letter to parents, and had instructed teachers to reassure students of the isolated nature of the tragedy.
Mr. Weiss said the fatal shooting had created an air of hyper-vigilance within the administration and a wish to evaluate security protocol.
“It’s a very sad thing,” the superintendent said. “School shooting in general is terrible. But because of the age and numbers of these youngsters, in a place very much like ours, it just tears at you.”
The Island schools currently have sign-in systems for guests, emergency plans and annual lock-down drills, he said.
After the new year Mr. Weiss said the administration will evaluate building security from the outside-in, with the possibility of tightening physical access to schools or assigning more resource officers. Edgartown currently has two resource officers and Tisbury school has one-part time officer.
“Safety is not something we just look at when these types of things happen,” said Mr. Smith. “I’m anxious about the safety of our kids when they are on field trips, on the bus, out playing sports or here in the building. With a situation like this, everything gets put back in the forefront.”