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Superintendent Reviews Safety Protocols for Avon Schools After Newtown Mass Shooting

Avon Superintendent Gary Mala wrote a letter to parents, concerned citizens, faculty and staff, also sharing resources for parents on how to speak to their children about the tragedy.

The Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Farmington has identified the 20 children and six adults who a shooter killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday and the Connecticut State Police have released the names

Sandy Hook Elementary School is located slightly more than an hour from Avon, according to Mapquest.

The tragedy rattled communities in Connecticut and across the globe who have been writing to Newtown Patch out of concern for the families of the victims and asking how they can help.

Avon school leaders have also addressed the shooting with their staff, town and emergency response officials. Superintendent Gary Mala spoke to administrators at all Avon Public Schools about the tragedy and the district's emergency plan Friday.

The district already had a professional development day for teachers scheduled Friday, so Avon students were already out of school for an early dismissal by the time the news broke about the mass shooting in Newtown. Principals addressed the tragedy with staff and updated them on the emergency plan.

Mala released another letter to the Avon community Sunday regarding the Newtown shooting and resources for parents and families during this trying time. The letter is published on the school district's website,
www.avon.k12.ct.us

Mala submitted his letter for publication:

As the details of the Newtown school tragedy continue to permeate the news, I want to take this opportunity to reach out to you to keep you informed on how we plan to move forward this week. 

This afternoon, I convened a meeting with the Central Administration of the district; all school principals; Town Manager, Brandon Robertson; Board of Education Chairperson, Peggy Roell; Avon Chief of Police, Mark Rinaldo; Avon Police Department, Captain Jeffery Blatter; and Jamie DiPace, Director of Emergency Management.  The purpose of the meeting was to review district emergency protocols, discuss the district’s responses and communications in light of the recent tragedy and to discuss specific plans associated with beginning another school week.  The meeting was not called in response to any specific concerns relative to district procedures.  It was called to review our emergency procedures and to be proactive with planning any supports that may be needed to assist students, faculty and/or staff who may experience any anxiety or despair triggered by this disturbing event.

Each school in the district adheres to a specific emergency plan with designations that evoke specific staff responses.  It is important to note that these plans have been developed in full cooperation with local police, fire and emergency management personnel and are reviewed regularly by each department.  Written reviews are provided to each Principal and are used to revise plans as necessary.  

Specifically, and as a part of each school’s emergency protocol, we have developed levels of emergency response.  A code red response results in all students, faculty and staff to “lock down” and remain in a secure place out of view.  A code yellow results in staff being made aware that a situation regarding the attention of administration is occurring.  Staff is allowed to proceed with all activities while remaining in the location where the activities are taking place.  A code green is signaled when the emergency situation is cleared and all activities may resume normally as they do each day.       

In the event an evacuation is necessary, each school has an identified alternate location and dismissal protocols to an alternate location are activated.  In the event any activity deviating from the norm is experienced, parents are notified using the district’s electronic communication systems. 

In addition, all Avon Public Schools, elementary through middle school, are locked during school hours requiring all visitors to check in and checkout in each school’s office.   

As noted in my last communication, we are aware that some students in the coming days may experience anxiety or articulate concerns.  We have alerted and organized our very well trained professionals to assist children to feel safe and secure.  We have also communicated with the Town of Avon Department of Social Services through the Office of the Town Manager. 

If you personally need additional support or resources, please feel free to contact Avon’s Social Service Department at (860) 409-4346.

As noted by many professionals conversant in crisis response, it is imperative that we, as schools, and you as parents, resume with normal routines as soon as possible.  Though it may be difficult for some, it is necessary and essential as the normalcy of their routine will assist our children to feel safe and secure.  Tomorrow, all of our schools will resume a normal schedule following staff meetings to be held prior to students arriving.      

In my last communication, I provided a number of resources available as you speak to your children about what is likely to continue to dominate the local, state and national press in the immediate future and beyond.  The following additional resources are also available to you for your reference:

http://www.casciac.org/pdfs/Talking_to_Children_About_Violence_-_NASP.pdf

http://www.casciac.org/pdfs/Red_Cross_children_and_trauma.pdf

http://www.schoolcounselor.org/content.asp?contentid=672

 

http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/resources_for_families/talking_to_children_about_community_violence

http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/

http://www.nasponline.org/

http://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Report_to_Parents/2005/rtp11-05.pdf

https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/Schonfeld_Quakenbush_ND12.pdf

https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/Boris-Schacter_MA11.pdf

http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx

http://www.cabe.org/uploaded/Dealing_with_Tragedy/psychological_information_sheet_two_pager.pdf

http://www.cabe.org/uploaded/Dealing_with_Tragedy/parents_guidelines_for_helping_teens_after_the_recent_attacks.pdf

http://www.cabe.org/uploaded/Dealing_with_Tragedy/talking_to_children_about_the_shooting.pdf

http://www.cabe.org/uploaded/Dealing_with_Tragedy/youth_journalists.pdf

Specific messages from each school principal may be found on each school’s respective website. 

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to your buildings Principal or me.

Gary Mala

Superintendent of Avon Schools

Bob Margolis December 17, 2012 at 02:37 PM
As a taxpayer, I'd be happy to pay a little more to have Police Officers on duty at every Avon school, every day.
Dave Breitsprecher December 17, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I don't believe that emergency procedures will prevent a future problem. I do agree that they will mitigate the impact of an incident. What can we do to identify areas of risk, both imminent and longer-term? I would imagine that the Newtown school system did not envision ANY risks of the magnitude of what happened. Now is the time to have this dialogue. I would be more than happy to participate.
POODETWA January 14, 2013 at 02:01 AM
I TOTALLY AGREE. WE ALSO NEED THEM EVERYWHERE-- MALLS, MOVIE THEATERS, STORES-- SADLY, WE LIVE IN A VERY DANGEROUS WORLD.

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