District 303 Tightens Up Security

Some principals reassure parents by email that their concerns are being taken seriously after Newtown tragedy.

School principals in St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 reached out by email to reassure parents steps are being taken to ensure their children are safe, as well as to address the questions or even counseling needs children may have in reaction to Friday’s deadly massacre in Newtown, Conn.

A gunman on Friday forced his way into Sandy Hook School, where he murdered 20 children and six adults before taking his own life. Before that violence began, he shot his mother to death in her home.

Some principals, as Superindendent Dr. Donald Schlomann did, began emailing parents on Sunday to reassure them that student safety is a priority. Schlomann noted in his email that mental health and emotional struggles were becoming apparent as undercurrents in Friday’s violence. He made that reference in announcing two initiatives the district is undertaking this week — the first being a review of its security measures, and a second which would seek to head off violence well in advance by attempting to identify potentially troubled students with the goal of providing them help.

Emails to parents from some building principals indicated the security reviews already are under way — and that in at least one instance, Schlomann was personally involved.

Wasco Elementary Principal Barbara Stokke wrote to parents that Schlomann was at the school Monday morning to observe the school’s safety procedures as students arrived. He then listened as school staffers and parents recommended changes.

Stokke wrote that the school staff will meet with school district officials and police to review their procedures, which will be adjusted as necessary. Further, she wrote, students and staffers will be learning new safety drills when they return to the school after the holidays.

At Norton Creek Elementary School, Principal Jodie McKnight told parents in an afternoon email that the staff met Monday to discuss security, as well as the measures the school will take if any students have difficulty “coping with this situation.”

McKnight also provided links to information parents might need as they talk with their children about the Newtown violence, and an invitation to parents to contact McKnight or school staffers should they need additional help.

Fox Ridge Elementary School Principal Anne Van Zandt, in an afternoon email, thanked parents who sent thoughtful and caring emails to the school staff. She also pointed out that staff had met to review emergency procedures and their plan to get help for any student who might need additional support.

Van Zandt noted that the school already invites the police and fire departments to its emergency drills as a means of getting ongoing coaching for improving the school’s efforts.

She reminded parents to stand in front of the camera next to the intercom at the school’s door when seeking entry to the school, and reminded them of related safety procedures — such as not holding the door for others so that they, too, must check in first via the intercom-camera. Once inside the building, visitors must go to the office to request a visitor pass.

Stokke also said the Wasco school’s security procedures will remain the same for now but will be strictly enforced. That could results in delays as people are checked in for special events coming up this week.

Also after the holidays, Stokke wrote, the school will consider reaching out — whether by donations or encouraging letters — to the residents of Newtown, Conn.


  • Dec. 17, 2012: District 303 Plans Changes After Newtown Tragedy
  • Dec. 17, 2012: After Newtown: District 303 Parents Worry About School Safety
  • Dec. 17, 2012: Dr. Schlomann's Email to District 303 Parents
  • Extended coverage: Newtown School Shootings

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