School officials in San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley communicated quickly with parents following the shooting that killed 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
Scotts Valley Unified School District Superintendent Penny Weaver emailed a letter to parents that afternoon urging vigilance and heightened awareness.
The letter also provided information about emergency response in Santa Cruz County schools and included links to information about how to talk with children about tragedy.
“Even though we are so far away, we are impacted being a school community,” Weaver said Monday, Dec. 17.
Weaver said district officials had a conference call with Scotts Valley Police Chief John Weiss on Monday, and that they also spoke with the Scotts Valley Fire District and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office about emergency response.
Weaver also spoke with the with the school district’s leadership team.
“We’re responding at the first level with information,” she said.
The district will likely present information to the district’s board at a Jan. 8 meeting related to improving security on Scotts Valley’s campuses. Weaver noted that none have fences and that there are few double-locking doors.
“There is a cost to any work we do to heighten campus security,” Weaver said.
Scotts Valley’s schools also do regular emergency drills.
“Fire, earthquake and lockdown drills are all part of being in a state of readiness to prevent (disaster) and respond if something does happen,” Weaver said.
In the San Lorenzo Valley, Superintendent Julie Haff emailed parents Dec. 14 shortly after the shooting, letting them know that the district is part of the Emergency Response and Crisis Management Plan of Santa Cruz County.
He wrote that each school has lock-down procedures in place and that the district has prepared staff to respond to many emergency situations.
Haff also provided information about how to address tragedy with children.
Each school, Haff said, had staff meetings led by its principal addressing the shootings and how to handle children who may be traumatized by the event.
“You want to make kids aware of it and reassure them, but also some parents have kept their kids (sheltered) from this,” Haff said.
Haff said campus security is of the utmost importance, and each classroom has posted emergency procedures. About one-third of the district’s classrooms have new locks, and Haff said the district will look into what it would cost to replace older door locks.
For information about the Santa Cruz County Office of Education emergency plan: www.santacruz.k12.ca.us/superintendent/emergency_response_management.html
For information about talking with children about traumatic events: http://rems.ed.gov/HelpingYouthandChildrenRecoverFromTraumaticEvents.aspx