We received the following update from Superintendent Philip O’Reilly of the New Hartford Public Schools comprising Ann Antolini School, Bakerville School and New Hartford Elementary School. In the update Dr. O’Reilly details plans for the first day back at school since the terrible tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in in Newtown. Local plans include tightened security at all three elementary schools.
December 16, 2012
As we turn toward a new week of school in New Hartford. I write you with a heart full of sadness and grief. Yesterday, I spent a good deal of my day outside with my sons, doing what I like most—cutting and splitting wood, with a warm fire to take away the nip of the winter air. This was helpful for me, and I hope that you too have found a way to take away the chilling images of Friday’s events.
Our schools in New Hartford have been and will continue to be places of happiness, hope, and promise, and I want you know that we will do everything in our power to continue to foster that spirit in the days ahead.
Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Ehrenwerth, Mr. Luzietti and I have spoken several times this weekend, putting our plans together. In addition, our administrators will be meeting with their faculty and staff prior to the start of school tomorrow. Below, I have outlined those plans and ask that if you have helpful suggestions that you contact one of us. Returning our schools to normalcy will be our top priority this week.
As I indicated to you on Friday (in a prior email), all doors, including the front door, will be locked at all times. When entering and leaving our schools, please refrain from using any door other than the main entrance. Please be patient with us as we establish these new routines. If you go to a side door, you will be redirected to the main entrance.
I have asked each principal to assign a person familiar with our children and families to monitor each main entry door while school is in session. Upon arrival at the school, you will be asked for identification if you are not recognized. This monitor will be in place until we have installed suitable cameras and a buzzer-entry system. It is my intent to get this in place as soon as possible. Each school will have a slightly different process. I have asked each principal to review that with you in an email later in the day. Finally, I will sponsor a Community Conversation about school security as part of a PTO or Board of Education meeting after the first of the year so that I can hear from you regarding this sensitive matter. In the meantime, please feel free to call me if you have questions or concerns.
Mrs. Ehrenwerth and our principals will be in constant contact with our school psychologists, Jennifer Harris and Megan Brown, to monitor those children who have a particularly difficult time. Each school psychologist is trained to deal with children who have experienced grief, sadness, and trauma, and I trust that they will help children work through these normal feelings associated with this tragedy. If further assistance is needed, our team will reach out to additional professional resources in our community and beyond. By the way, the National Association of School Psychologists has a tip sheet available online if you are looking for information about how to address this tragedy with your children. Click this link for the tip sheet.
Our teachers will provide structure and normalcy in the days ahead. They too have been trained to talk with students both individually and in group settings. As they ease back into a normal routine, teachers will take the time to process the events with children in a developmentally appropriate manner and will be taking cues from students in determining how much time will be spent on such activities. Please know that a teacher response in grade one will be very different from a teacher response in grade six.
On behalf of the entire school district, I have sent a note to the Superintendent of Schools in Newtown. I have conveyed to her our very deepest sympathy and assured her of our unrelenting thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks and months, as she has the unfathomable job of leading her school community back to teaching and learning. Related to that, I will be setting up a vase of twenty white roses and six red roses in the office of each of our three buildings late tomorrow. I invite you to come into your child’s school and write a personal message to members of the Sandy Hook school community. I will deliver these to Newtown in January.
I hope that the peace of the holiday season prevails this week and next as our state and country heal from this deep wound.
My best to you and yours,
Philip B. O’Reilly, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools