After Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, Conn., education leaders across the country have been shocked, saddened sympathetic and thinking about such an event in their schools.
In Havre, District Superintendent Andy Carlson spent the morning visiting the schools, sitting in on staff meetings and discussing district safety procedures as well as discussing how teachers are supposed to handle talking to or taking care of students.
“I think the most difficult thing is those one-to-one conversations with students, ” Carlson said. “I’m confident that when students have questions, they’ll have caring and intelligent answers. ”
Maureen Odegard, Highland Park Early Primary School principal, said that she and her staff have been having those conversations, about how to talk to the students, who are the same age as most of the victims.
“Our biggest concern is how we talk to our little people about how this occurred, ” Odegard said. “We know that a lot of children were exposed to information, and we just want to make sure they feel safe.
“Anyone who seems to be afraid to be at school, or maybe had too much information for someone at their age level, we’ll have a school counselor available.
“Other than that it’s business as usual because there’s nothing more comforting than routine. ”
The staffs have discussed procedures, like tightening identification requirements for school visitors. Carlson said that the district had been talking earlier this year with Montana’s Office of Public Instruction about improvements to the districts’ safety plan.
The Associated Press reported after the shooting that OPI was urging districts to have these talks.
"I encourage our school leaders to review their emergency plans, policies and procedures and ensure all staff members have a clear understanding of what to do in an emergency situation," OPI Superintendent Denise Juneau said.
"I know that Montana families will be hugging their children a little bit tighter tonight."
The personal effects on the teachers and staff were also on the minds of local administrators.
“I know a lot of our staff is hurting today, ” Carlson said. “I know a big reason for that is, they are putting themselves in those positions. I think it’s a hard day for teachers everywhere. ”
Odegard was doing just that.
“It choked me up and touched my heart to know that there were staff members in that school that put themselves in harms way to keep the children safe, ” Odegard said, “and I work in a building full of people like that. ”