White River School Leaders Share Concerns, Priorities in Ensuring Student Safety

Superintendent Janel Keating shared with Patch this communication that was sent to staff Friday following the CT school shooting.

The White River School District was preparing a letter for parents Monday morning, Superintendent Janel Keating said. Meanwhile, several school leaders also extended their own messages home to parents on Friday either via email or robo call.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

You may already be aware but I need to inform you that there has been a massive school shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.  Reports are varying and information is emerging, but media is reporting that as many as 18 children and a dozen adults were killed in the incident.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those children and with our colleagues in Connecticut.  As colleagues and educational professionals, the safety of our students and school communities is always at the forefront of our efforts.

Our district has a crisis response plans that address a full-range of emergency situations.  Each individual school in our district is also prepared for these crisis situations. Our district and school plans have been developed in coordination with both Pierce County and Pierce County Sheriff/Buckley Police departments.  Our preparedness should be a source of reassurance to our students and families.
It is important for our schools, staff, and parents to be knowledgeable about these plans and that our schools regularly conduct drills in order to be able to respond as effectively as possible during these emergencies. During a school shooting, our most effective response is to move into a lockdown procedure in order to try to protect our students and staff in secured classrooms.  Lights are turned off and students and staff are directed to move away from windows and to crouch or lie down for safety purposes.  There are also specific procedures for evacuation and incidences involving intruders.
The issue of school safety, particularly as it relates to a shooting such as this, is an important topic for all communities.  As we have seen over the last few months, gun violence in public settings is a concern for all of us.  This is an issue that needs our community’s and our nation’s attention.
Student safety is our number one responsibility in White River School District.  We will encourage our schools to review crisis plans in light of this tragedy as well as reinforce school security and campus visitor procedures. As part of this effort, we will also reach out to our families and school communities to build greater awareness. Please remember that our students and our communities look to us for guidance in times of concern. Your leadership and your professionalism are among the greatest assets in our district and our community. 
Just today, we received this testimonial from a parent.
Just two days ago I had to pick Reagan up from Elk Ridge Elementary. I was hoping to not have to go into the office and sign her out, as I didn't want to have to unload the baby. I called the main office and asked them to release her without me coming in to sign her out.  The office staff said that I indeed needed to come to the office and sign her out.  I followed their procedure with a bit of irritation.  
In light if the situation that happened this morning in Connecticut I want to thank ER for following procedure to ensure our students safety.  So again a BIG THANK YOU for doing everything you can, even if it is inconvenient for parents.  

White River High School put its evacuation procedures to the test Friday morning, prompted by a small fire in a boys restroom. Principal Lainey Mathews credits teacher Jason Simonson with acting quickly to grab a fire extinguisher and put out the fire once a student reported it. "I sent a school messenger home on Friday evening to parents to communicate why we needed to evacuate the building as well as to communicate that their children responded appropriately during the evacuation and were safe," she said in an email to Patch Monday.

The fire remains under investigation, Mathews said.

See more coverage on Newtown Patch from over the weekend:

  • How to Help Families Affected by Newtown School Shooting
  • Vicki Soto's Graduating Class Establishes Fund for Fallen Hero Teacher

Follow the latest news from Newtown Patch.


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