In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, CT. last Friday that took the lives of 26 people, including 20 students, Patch reached out to the Burlington Public Schools to see how officials are handling possible anxiety among students and parents.
Assistant Superintendent Patrick Larkin said the school day on Monday was mostly normal for the students, but there was extra administrative visibility and school counselors were notified to be ready to handle fears among students.
"We all wanted to be on the same page," Larkin said in an interview. "Guidance counselors and school psychologists were ready if anyone needed extra assistance. Something like this could be a trigger for anyone who has gone through a traumatic event. We wanted to be sensitive to the needs of our students and staff."
Larkin said that in the elementary schools the teachers were advised not to bring up the events if the students didn't ask questions first.
"We didn't want to talk about it with the younger grades, that's an area for the parents," he said.
Larkin added that fortunately many of the younger children can't quite comprehend what happened.
"That is the big concern for parents," he said. "I'm the father of a first grader myself. I think adults had more trouble with this than the kids. We comprehend the details of what took place. I went to all of the elementary schools today to see what was going on and happily the kids are mostly oblivious to what happened."
Larkin said that to help ease concern and anxiety among parents and students, the School Committee requested a more visible police presence at the school buildings yesterday morning.
"We saw something similar after 9/11," he said. "It helps people feel more calm seeing a police presence. The idea was that as parents dropped kids off or drove by the school they would notice the police presence and that would help people feel more secure."
Larkin added the school officials do not feel they need to do a complete revamp of the department's safety protocols. He also said that the students won't be doing any lockdown drills this week, though they have been performed in the past.
"We feel comfortable with our protocols," he said.
Part of the school security is that the doors are locked after the students arrive and all visitors must be buzzed in through the main offices.
Larkin said he would not get into more details of the school department's safety protocols in procedures in a newspaper or online publication, but did say that any parent that wanted to learn more could contact him at the school department.
"I don't want to put details in the media, but I will speak with parents if they have questions," he said. "We have district-wide security meetings with local police and fire and we've had some this year already. Safety is always at the top of our priority list."
"I encourage any parent who has a question to ask us," he added. "It is an important topic for a parent when they send their kids to school."