The words from a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School punctuates the unthinkable sadness of a tragedy that has shocked the nation.
It wasn’t the sight of a gunman opening fire at the school that will stick with her the most.
It wasn’t the sight of dead, bloody children which will make the most lasting impression.
She said it was the reaction from parents who had frantically converged to pick up their children, only to be told they no longer had a child to pick up from school.
Said Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis whose school was jolted by its own deadly rampage more that a decade ago, “It has to stop, these senseless deaths.”
The massacre was very much on the minds of Warren County school officials on Friday as they watched details of the shooting unfold through 24-hour news networks.
Parents at the elementary basketball tournament at Eastside were searching their tablets on Friday night for the latest details. There was a moment of silence at the WCHS basketball game at Charlie Dalton Gym.
“I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox. “All we can do is pray for them. As a parent who has children in high school and elementary school, you never want to think about those things.”
Cox said while education and test scores are obviously stressed at school, he wants parents to know security is also very much a concern.
“While we share the grief of the Sandy Hook school community,” Cox said, “we assure the parents of our local schools that student safety is an essential, continuing, and strongly focused element in our work. While academic achievement is always job one, nothing will ever take precedence over or diminish our concentration on protecting our students and the people who serve and care for them in every Warren County school.”
As an example of the ongoing emphasis on safety, Cox noted, a routine rehearsal of campus emergency procedures was successfully completed several weeks ago, integrating law enforcement, emergency medical services, school staff and emergency management officials.
Cox said all Warren County campuses are equipped with closed-circuit TV monitoring, both the perimeter of the buildings and interior spaces such as hallways and entrances. Outside doors are locked during the day, but may be easily opened from the inside in the event of emergencies, and all visitors must enter through one controlled doorway.
At the School Board meeting Thursday night, the system authorized an estimated $61,000 expenditure to fully enclose Dibrell Elementary School with a 6-foot security fence. Most other schools already have similar protection, with the newest site, Morrison Elementary, scheduled for fence installation when funds become available next year.
“Our crisis management plans are very detailed, and the work of updating and improving them never ends,” Cox said. “Student safety is not viewed as just one more administrative issue. It’s extremely important to all of us, and we’ll never relax in our efforts to keep our students safe. We admit, however, that there is no amount of planning and protective equipment that will absolutely prevent a school invasion, but that fact does not discourage us from striving toward the very highest level of protection.”