In the wake of the school shooting Friday in Newtown, Conn., local officials are taking several precautions to help allay concerns about safety while also keeping students' possible anxiety in mind.
The Sandy Hook school implemented many of the same security steps as Warren schools, including having all doors locked after classes begin and performing regular lockdown drills. Both actions were implemented in schools across the country following the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.
But in an email sent to parents Monday, Warren Superintendent of Schools Tami Crader said this week's planned lockdown drill has been canceled.
"Although we had planned for a lockdown drill to be held this week in all schools, the drill has been cancelled, as we feel that students may become unnecessarily fearful," she said.
The drills are done in conjunction with Warren Police, and Dr. Crader said she has been working with Chief of Police Russell Leffert to determine any other steps that may be taken in light of the Newtown incident.
One step that has been taken already is an increase in police presence around Warren schools. "We have already increased our presence at all of the schools and we will continue to do so," Capt. Robert Glen said.
Also, police regularly hold "active shooter drills," in which police officers are trained in how to secure a school in such a situation.
Police reports of the Newtown incident note the shooter gained access to the school by shooting out a window, since the doors were locked. School officials will review what, if any, steps could be taken to prevent circumventing school security.
"We regularly assess our security here in Warren and will continue to have those conversations about providing safety while offering a welcoming environment for students and staff," Dr. Crader said. "We have to keep in mind that tragedies such as the one in Newtown are rare; they are not the norm.
"Although we must put in place safety and security measures, we should not overreact and create fear," she added.
Which touches on the need for school officials to also determine the best ways to respond to parents' and students' fears caused by the shooting. District staff are discussing how to respond in classrooms this week, and Dr. Crader said there no plans for teachers to bring the subject up in classes.
But it's certain still come up during the week, so teachers are preparing how to discuss the situations, and anyone wanting to discuss it with the district's professional staff will be able to do so.
"In anticipation of student confusion and/or questions, our schools will have counselors, school psychologists, nurses, social workers, administrators and other support staff available for students," Dr. Crader said.
Watchung Hills Regional officials also noted the security precautions taken at the school, which has security cameras throughout the grounds and in areas within the school where students gather.
The school has a staff of security personnel, as well as a uniformed police officer stationed at the school.
But Superintendent Frances Stromsland noted the best protection is with open dialogue between students and staff members about things that may be "troublesome or questionable."
"This, more than anything, can help deter a violent event at our school," she said.
Parents seeking guidance on how to address their children's fears or with other questions can contact school guidance counselors for more information.
"As we attempt to recover from the shock of Friday’s tragedy, I wanted to reassure you that we will take a cautious and careful approach to handling our students’ concerns and fears," Dr. Crader noted in her email. "As I stated in Friday’s communication, it is very important for us to return to normal routines and to reassure students and families that our school environment is safe and secure."