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11:41 AM EST, December 18, 2012
Area elementarys schools are trying to "get back to business" for the sake of the children but the emotions about the recent massacre in Newtown are still raw.
"It's just a shock and a shame. It's brutal," says Larry Sparks, Assistant Principal at Roaring Brook Elementary School in Avon. "It has us all thinking, 'What can we do better?'"
And, the questions have really just begun. "Are our schools safe and appropriate? Are they too big or too small? Are they built properly in order to handle the dangers of modern society?" asks Sparks.
Students returned to school yesterday and were able to focus on classwork, as administrators in the office took calls and answered parents' questions. Attendance was normal but more parents than usual drove their children back and forth to school, as a police presence remained outside. The school has put out email bulletins and planned forums in order to answer the concerns of anxious mothers and fathers.
Sparks believes his school's security is very good but he will be reviewing the protocols to, perhaps, make them even more comprehensive.
"In the immediate wake of an instance like what we've all gone through, everyone's awareness is heightened and I know everyone across the district is scrutinizing our plans," says Sparks.
This seasoned educator doesn't believe that schools should become fortresses: "We have to, as a school building, come to a place where we're comfortable with the level of safety and security we're providing that's balanced with a school environment that is conducive to learning."
Sparks says fighting for more counselors during these times of budget cuts is also an important part of this puzzle. Children need access to these professionals in order to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally.
"If we all pause and reach out and know our neighbors and support them in their needs, that's a helpful piece," he says.