Update, 6:06 p.m.
Gary Richards, superintendent of schools, updated the community Monday on what was going on at Wilton schools following the tragic events in Newtown last week. Richards posted the following letter on the schools' website:
Dear Wilton parents and staff,
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, I wanted to update you on the steps that we have taken and how we will proceed in the near future. I was in touch with the First Selectman Brennan and Wilton Police Chief Lombardo all weekend discussing our response to the events in Newtown. The Wilton Police Department had an officer stationed at each of our schools as they opened today.
By all accounts, our faculty and staff did an excellent job in providing a calm, purposeful learning atmosphere for our students. As promised, our trained mental health staff (social workers, counselors, & psychologists) was all well prepared to help students and staff who needed support. These professionals will continue to be available for as long as needed.
As we move forward, we are taking a number of steps to help ensure that our schools are as safe as possible. These steps include but are not limited to:
- There will be an increased police presence at all schools.
- We are continuing to review of our security measures and practices. This work is a collaborative effort with the Wilton Police.
- We are conducting a review of our emergency operations procedures.
I want to again assure you that the safety and security of our students and staff are our highest priorities. We thank you for your continued support and understanding as we address these important issues.
Gary G. Richards
In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown on Friday, Wilton Police have amped up their security measures at schools. Residents report seeing armed police presence at schools, but police were hesitant to release thorough details on just what security measures were in place.
"We have had interest in what security measures are in place at our schools. We can't comment on security specifics," Captain John Lynch said. "We have worked with school personnel since the first report of the tragic incident in Newtown and continue to work with them to keep our children and residents safe."
Wilton school officials also sent out a variety of communications to the community over the weekend, outlining the schools' response to the shootings and what students and parents could expect in the coming days.
Dr. Gary Richards, superintendent of schools, said Wilton's children remain the town's number one priority. He sent out the following note yesterday:
Throughout the weekend, we have all struggled to come to terms with what happened in Newtown on Friday, December 14. As we prepare for the opening of our schools tomorrow, I wanted to share some information concerning our response in the days ahead.
Since we first heard about the school shootings on Friday morning, I have been in contact with Chief of Police Lombardo and his senior staff. We will again have police officers at each of our campuses on Monday, and we will be meeting with Chief Lombardo and Mr. Brennan to review our security measures to determine if there are any additional precautions we need to take at this time. I want to assure you that we have long enjoyed a strong, positive and collaborative working relationship with the Wilton Police Department at every level. As always, our number one priority is the emotional and physical safety of our children and the staff who work with them.
Our principals have issued some communications to parents about the coming week. If you have not yet done so, I suggest that you go to your children’s’ school website(s) as they have posted some information about the approach they will take in their respective schools.
We will continue our outreach to the Newtown Public Schools by offering assistance to them as they seek to heal their community.
Many of us have professional or personal connections with the Newtown schools and community. On behalf of our staff, I want to extend our appreciation for the many kind words and gestures of support that you have offered this past weekend.
Gary G. Richards
Cheryl Jensen-Gerner, principal of Miller-Driscoll, sent out the following note to the community over the weekend:
Dear Miller-Driscoll Community,
Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. Please know that we do realize many of us have connections to the Newtown community and know families that are affected in one way or another. At Miller-Driscoll we are also preparing to support the emotional well-being of our students, upon their return on Monday and the ensuing days and weeks.
We will continue to keep the safety and security of the Miller-Driscoll community in the forefront of our minds. Please know that we will be reviewing all of our safety precautions and security systems.
If your child experiences anxiety around this issue and/or returning to school, please reach out to our staff members so we can assist in providing guidance and support.
Please visit the Miller-Driscoll website and review the attachments to my message listed there for your reference during this trying time. The attachments are taken from many sources and hopefully will provide you with some information that will help guide us all through this crisis. Other resources are also available on our website.
Jensen-Gerner sent another note Sunday evening:
I apologize for the lateness of this message but further questions from some parents have made me realize that more information might be helpful to you. I will do my best to provide a few more thoughts that might provide you a little more comfort.
Will we talk to the students about these events?
Please know that we will not have this kind of conversation with the students. The children are very young and have very different needs and we cannot advise parents on what should or should not be said to your children. This must remain an individual parent choice. We have however tried to provide some guidance in resources from experts that we have posted on the website and in my previous communication.
Many of you want to know how we will handle the situation tomorrow.
In the morning, staff will meet together to discuss their approach throughout the day. We have a mental health team available to assist and support students and staff. They have also received a handout from the mental health team with direction on how to address questions and concerns.
Teachers will not directly address the tragedy with the students. Teachers will speak quietly with students on an individual basis and comfort them as needed. Students will also be able to talk to a member of the mental health team. Parents of students who met with someone from the mental health team will be called at the end of the day as a follow up procedure.
We do believe that we have a safe school and appropriate security measures. All doors except the office remain closed and locked. Our custodians will circulate to check each door once the children have arrived. The office staff will continue to check in each visitor and to have them sign in upon entry.
As was the case on Friday there will be police presence on our campus tomorrow. An officer will circulate the perimeter of the building and monitor the office doors.
It is best that everyone return to as normal a schedule as possible. However, we will try to minimize visitor traffic to the building by curtailing most volunteers at centers and other non-essential parent-assisted activities for a few days until we can assess the needs of the students and parents as we move forward this week.
Finally, please know that our staff is conscientious, committed and level-headed. They know our emergency procedures and will do everything possible to keep the children safe. We love and care about all our children at Miller-Driscoll School and will do all that we can to support them and to support you as their parents. I hope this communication and the one previous have helped somewhat in comforting you in these most difficult times. As the days and weeks progress, please do not forget to take care of yourselves as well!
Virginia Rico, principal of Cider Mill, sent out the following note to the community:
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you, for a second time in a week, about a horrific tragedy that has affected our school community. Having said this, I wanted to inform you about our planning for our students’ return to school tomorrow. Our guidance staff and administration have spent many hours planning for Monday and our guidance staff is prepared to help our students as needed.
We would like to share with you what the teachers will be reading to the students. Our goal is to reassure them that they are safe in our school.
Boys and Girls,
As you probably know, a very tragic event took place at an elementary school in Newtown on Friday. We are all very sad, confused, and unhappy about what happened. But as we come back together here at Cider Mill, we need to remember that a school is one of the safest places for children. What happened in Newtown
is incredibly unusual and rare. Schools are really very safe places. Let’s remember all the things that are in place here at Cider Mill to keep us all safe.
All of our doors stay locked at all times until teachers use their badges to unlock the door. Our front door is locked and anyone who wants to enter has to show identification and receive a visitor’s badge to get buzzed into the building. We have a lot of adults outside at recess and children always have an adult with them on the outside sidewalk near the bus platform or lower parking lot to support you. We also practice many drills during the year to keep us safe, like fire drills and lockdowns.
If you have questions about what happened in Newtown, you can talk to your parents about it. If you want to talk to someone during the day, you can go down to the guidance office and talk to one of our guidance professionals. Remember, if you feel unsafe, or sad, or upset about what has happened, we have school counselors who are here to help you. Students in Cannondale and Nod Hill can see Mrs. Randall or Mr. Lovelace. Students in Kent and Belden Hill can see either Mrs. Geyer or Mrs. Perry.
So as we begin our day today, remember that our school is safe and that we need to support each other in hard times like this.
As you may know, there is a great deal of crisis- related research which supports the importance of having students resume regular routines to the best extent possible. As we do this, we also will ensure that we have the flexibility to respond to students’ social and emotional needs. On that note, you might want to consult the district website where you will find many valuable parent resources on helping children cope with tragic incidents.
With respect to school operations, we know that many parents will be in the building throughout the week to help out with holiday gatherings. We respectfully ask that there be no discussion or mention of the incident among visiting adults in the school. We also ask that all visitors comply with the safety regulations that are in place when entering and exiting the building. ALL visitors must present ID at the window outside the front office. Once they do so, they will receive a visitor’s pass that will allow them to enter the building.
We are very proud of the professionalism displayed by our staff who withheld the news from the children so that they could hear of it in whatever fashion you, as parents, deemed appropriate. Please feel free to contact us if you have concerns about your child’s response to the sad events that have occurred in recent days.
As we move forward, we will continue to ensure that the safety and well being of each student is paramount in our school. Thank you for all you are doing to support your children during this challenging time.