After Newtown Killings, Vt. Schools Review Emergency Plans

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Days after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., educators across the country are reassuring families that they’ve put plans in place to handle emergencies.

Vermont’s largest school district is hoping to learn from the tragedy that left 20 children and six teachers dead.

In Burlington, school administrators meet monthly with the city’s police and fire department, but Superintendent of Schools Jeanne Collins says an incident as shocking as the one at Sandy Hook will cause them to revisit their protocols, "such as keeping locked schools and checking for IDs on people. And looking at what might need to be changed."

School administrators in Burlington are responsible for the safety of 4,000 kids and Collins says the shooting has reverberated through this school system.

She’s heard from teachers who are unsure how to carry on; from parents who want to be reassured.

Collins says, above all, she joins other educators in expressing sadness and shock over the killing of innocent children and the women who taught them. "Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to the students and families and faculty at Newtown. [It’s an] unbelievable, horrific tragedy."

In the wake of the tragedy, Collins is asking for support from parents to meet some of the most basic safety steps: making sure that when they come into a school they’re checking in at the office; making sure that doors are locked and telling administrators if they find a door that’s not locked.

Collins says the federal government has failed to prevent shootings through gun control. So, at the local level, she’s advocating strongly for investing in the infrastructure of schools.

"In Burlington our schools are all between 50 and 120 years old. Fifty years ago, thirty years ago, twenty years ago, schools were not built to keep people out," Collins says. "We have to invest in those building to retrofit them to make them safe."

Burlington and other school districts in Vermont conduct lock-down and evacuation drills. Governor Peter Shumlin says principals and staff at Vermont schools have been "especially vigilant" following the school shooting in Connecticut.

Now, teachers and parents are seeking guidance about how or whether to speak to their students and children about the tragedy in Sandy Hook. As a longtime administrator, Collins says the key is to maintain a regular routine but also make time to talk, and let kids’ questions guide how much information adults provide.

VPR News: Vt. Ed Commissioner Wants Schools To Review Crisis Plans


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