Friday's tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., naturally lead citizens to think about local schools and the safety of students within them. The mass shooting, which left 20 youngsters and seven adults, including suspected shooter Adam Lanza, dead, certainly is on the minds of those working in the Parsippany-Troy Hills school district.
"Each school held an moment of silence this morning," Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz told Patch early Monday.
The loss will be commemorated again Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the Par-Troy Council of PTAs holds a candlelight vigil at Veterans Park to offer respects to the fallen of Newtown.
Seitz said district professionals want to be of help to students having difficulty coping with the violent incident.
"Our teachers and support staff are prepared to address questions raised by students as appropriate," he said. "If, in the judgment of the teacher or staff member they determine they are not prepared to answer the students questions or address his or her need, the child is referred to a counselor and/or the principal."
Asked if they are seeing a need for counselors to speak with students, Seitz said yes.
School board member Fran Orthwein said students at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools are banding together in their grief to show solidarity with Sandy Hook Elementary. She said that on Monday many students are dressed in green and white, the Newtown school's colors.
She added that a letter from Superintendent Seitz dated Dec. 16 was sent to parents in an effort to ease their concerns.
As our nation mourns the loss of so many students and educators, I want to reassure you that our teachers, administrators, counselors, and support staff are here to support your children during this difficult time. Our principals, counselors, teachers, and support staff are meeting before school tomorrow to make sure they are fully prepared to provide your children with a safe and secure classroom and, as necessary, address any children that are having difficulty in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.
Since Friday I have been in contact with our Police Department, our crisis plans are continually refined, and our teachers and principals are here for your children and you. The following websites may be helpful to you and your family as we face another unimaginable tragedy in one of our nation's schools:
Please let your child's teacher and principal know if your child is experiencing difficulty after the Sandy Hook tragedy whether it is now, or days or weeks from now. We are here to help.
Seitz said security measures have been in place in Parsippany schools since at least 1999 and are continually refined.
"We maintain a strong working relationship with the Parsippany Police Department and [the Morris] County Prosecutor’s Office," said Seitz. "We have a Memorandum of Agreement with these two agencies that spell out everyone’s responsibilities in protecting our students and staff. The Parsippany Police Department meets with all of our administrators annually and with our school resource officer on a daily basis as needed. Our liaison is Captain [Kevin] Duffy and we speak whenever there is a need."
The superintendent said that security measures are not discussed publicly.
"We do have electronic locks on our main entrances," he did say. "Security cameras have been installed and we are constantly evaluating the effectiveness of the cameras and whether we need additional cameras."
Seitz also said that schools typically keep their doors locked during the school day, and that visitors must be buzzed into the school, talk with a staff member and,if requested, sign in and show idenitification.
He added that discussions with teachers, administrators and support staff on security challenges take place on a regular basis.