How do we react to the tragic school shootings in Connecticut? Parents are struggling to explain a senseless, unfathomable act to their children while asking themselves, "could it happen here?"
In the aftermath of the shootings that killed 20 children and six adult victims, local school districts are making parents aware of their security plans and the services available to students and families.
In the Waterloo School District, which covers Atwater and Randolph in southern Portage County, Supterintendent Andrew Hill wrote parents that the Portage County Sheriff's Office would be making more of a presence at rural districts.
"We thank Sheriff (David) Doak and those in his department for their assistance in our district. Their presence is yet another deterrent to those looking to cause problems," Hill wrote in a letter to parents Monday.
Hill also said parents could ask that a child is having a difficult time in response to the tragedy speak with a school counselor.
"Our teachers are keeping a watchful eye on all of their students as well, in case they feel someone needs some additional assistance," Hill wrote.
In Twinsburg, police are increasing their presence at schools as a precaution.
"Police officers have provided some low-profile attention to our buildings and will continue to do so this week," Superintendent Kathryn Powers said. "Basically, just reassuring our community that they are available for assistance if necessary."
"We've increased our presence in and around the schools," Twinsburg Police Chief Chris Noga added. "We understand that everybody's at a heightened sense of anxiety."
Like other districts, visitors to Waterloo schools must be buzzed in through locked doors during the school day. The district spent months updating its safety and security plans with input from school staff, local fire departments, the Ohio Highway Patrol, Doak and members of his staff, Hill said.
Many districts in Portage have adopted the ALICE program (for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate). The program, devised after the 1999 Columbine, Colo., shooting, teaches students and staff how to respond to armed threats.
Reporter Conner Howard of the Twinsburg Bulletin contributed to this story.
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