Dist. 16 springs into action after Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy

Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg and principals of Spring Lake Park District 16 worked throughout the weekend to ensure that they were prepared for students returning to school Monday morning in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

District 16 schools held meetings among teachers, counselors, social workers and staff before the school day started Monday to provide proper resources and assistance to kids should they need help in getting through the day. Counselors were available for students to speak to outside of class.

“There were not a great deal of kids who needed support,” Ronneberg said in an interview late Monday afternoon.

The few students and families who had connections to Connecticut were provided with additional support, he said.

“But other than that, things went really, really well,” Ronneberg said.

Ronneberg also sent an email to parents Monday.

“Today, we want to take just a moment to assure you that providing a secure environment in each of our schools, providing for the safety of all of our students and staff, has been, and will always be, our top priority in the Spring Lake Park Schools,” the letter posted Dec. 17 on the district’s website stated. “We care about the students you send through the doors of our schools, and entrust to us each day, as if they were our own.”

The email also contained resource suggestions on how to speak with children about violence.

Class discussions of the tragedy took place on an age-appropriate level. For some of the lower-level classes, the subject of the Connecticut school shooting was not brought up at all, according to Ronneberg.

District 16 has crisis plans in place should tragedy strike. It regularly practices and reviews lockdown and tornado drills. Adjustments are made as needed. The district works with law enforcement to ensure a coordination of efforts.

School doors are locked during the day with the exception of the main entrance where visitors are required to sign in.

Bringing a weapon to school would result in expulsion, according to state statute and District 16 policy. Cases are reviewed on an individual basis.

“Safety is our top priority for kids,” Ronneberg said in the interview. The district is continually looking at ways to make the environment as safe as humanly possible for both students and staff, he said.

“This is something that’s almost unimaginable for all of us,” Ronneberg said about the 20-year-old man who last week opened fire and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]