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Hingham Schools exercise caution in wake of Connecticut shooting

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 17, 2012 11:57 AM

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Teachers and administrators at Hingham’s South Elementary School gave hopeful smiles as they maintained a watchful eye on students Monday morning, carefully monitoring every person coming and going through the front doors.

Following the horrific tragedy in a Connecticut elementary school shooting on Friday, things felt tense in Hingham. All the side doors remained unusually locked as kids entered the building at 8:30 a.m., if there wasn’t a teacher standing at the front door, people needed to be buzzed in.

The abundance of caution came on top of the usual school security, as school officials worked to tread carefully over the bruised and nervous psyches of Hingham parents.

“We’ve already made some small changes,” said Mary Connolly, principal of South Elementary School.

According to Connolly, doors will remain locked at all times. Visitors have also needed to state their business before being buzzed into the school.

Superintendent Dr. Dorothy Galo said security measures will be looked at with each school in the coming week. Though the procedures at South Shore were precautionary on Monday morning, she wasn't sure if they would continue.

"South School is just conscious they are on the main road, and today they buzzed peole in one at a time. Usually that isn’t a practical way to enter 500 kids," Galo said. "That’s the kind of thing you have to look at. You have to be thorough in your investigation and response."

Regardless, every principal will be meeting with Galo and the Hingham Police to discuss if there are any permanent changes that should be implemented.

For now, lock-down procedures would remain in place, and all doors at all schools would be locked after student's arrival in the morning.

On Monday morning, teachers also had already met with school staff before school began, working on how to handle student questions.

“At this level, we said the teachers are the ones who know their class well. Though we set up guidelines, they will adjust it based on their kids,” said Kathy Rein, an adjustment councilor for South School.

“The lower grade level won’t be talking about it, and if kids bring it up it would be a generality and bringing them to a point of safety…you’d say that’s a sad thing, we’re happy to be in a safe school. You acknowledge the kid’s feelings and then bring them back to safety and routine. So that’s what we’re implementing,” Rein said.

The procedures and precautions followed numerous email blasts sent to parents throughout the weekend, reassuring them that things were ok and their children were safe.

Overall, the communication helped to allay parent’s fears.

“The school has been very good about it,” said Jane Syed, who has a 10-year-old son that attends the school. “[Emails] came out before the end of the day [on Friday]. They’ve been talking to us all weekend and this morning. I feel my son is very safe here.”

Jessica Steele, a Hingham parent, also said she wasn’t overly concerned.

“They sent out some emails to assure us they are on it and meeting,” said “They will go over security measures. I think they are doing what everyone is doing, thinking what we can do.”

Though Steele said she wasn’t worried about safety in the school, she still said she got a lump in her throat watching her son walk into the building Monday morning.

The anxiety this event has caused was almost too much for some parents, who had the events still swirling around in their heads days after the tragedy.

“I was considering, I was saying to my husband, ‘I don’t want to send them today,’ but he said, ‘We have to go on,’” said Sandy Schulte, who has a five-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son who is in second grade.

“The one reason I was afraid to send him was the influence of the other kids. I was afraid of what he was going to hear,” she said.

Schulte said her son knows very little about what happened, only knowing about the incident from the moment of silence the family had during church.

Other parents, such as Chris Ellis, agreed that keeping kids sheltered from what had occurred was the best course of action.

“My son goes to first grade, but I don’t think something like this should be, I don’t think this info should be mass distributed. Adults should know about it, but children don’t need to know about this stuff.,” said Ellis, who has a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter.

Yet for others with older children, talking about the horror of Friday was important.

Karen Salon, who has a 13-year-old boy, a 10-year-old girl, and an 8-year-old boy in Hingham Public School, encouraged her kids to watch the news, and let them see President Obama’s address to the nation.

“My kids feel sad for the kids who were killed, but they haven’t had any hesitation about coming to school today and going about their lives,” she said.

Salon said the talking points school officials sent out were also helpful.

“What they said made a lot of sense. Give your children a hug, make sure they know you love them,” Salon said.

In emails, school officials encouraged parents to have age-appropriate discussions with their kids, emphasizing that their kids were safe and that incidents like this are rare.

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