Hilliard Northwest News

McVey: Hilliard's top priority is 'safe learning environment'

As children returned to school in Hilliard on Monday, Dec. 17, district officials strived for normalcy while not forgetting the tragedy that occurred last week at a Connecticut elementary school.

Twenty children as young as 6 and 7 years old and six teachers were killed Friday, Dec. 14, by a 20-year-old gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, died at the school from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent Dale McVey issued an email to district parents Dec. 17 regarding the tragedy.

"The tragic events from last Friday in Newtown, Conn., have impacted us all, and we grieve for the school and families that have been affected by this senseless act," McVey wrote. "We also know that questions regarding our own school system are natural, and I want to assure parents, students and staff that Hilliard City Schools has crisis and safety plans in place and support systems to help those struggling with this issue."

McVey told parents a variety of safety drills and procedures remain in place, and while none are "foolproof," the top priority will continue to be a safe learning environment.

District spokeswoman Amanda Morris reiterated that crisis plans are in place.

"These plans are reviewed and the drills are practiced on a regular basis," Morris said.

McVey said the district would not directly refer to the tragedy in classrooms, but teachers and staff members would ensure children have the support they need.

"As a school community, we will support any students or staff member that may be struggling with these events," McVey wrote. "However, it is important in any tragic situation to return to a normal routine as soon as possible, so we will not directly engage students related to Friday's events."

The email also included resources for parents to help students process and discuss the shootings.

Morris said the district encourages parents to discuss -- in whatever way they deem most appropriate -- the Sandy Hook tragedy.

"It is important for both children and adults to return to a normal routine as quickly as possible," Morris said. "This helps with the healing process and is why staff will not directly engage students on this issue.

"We will support any individual student needs, but will leave the bigger conversations about these events to take place at home with parents. Instead, we will focus on providing that normal learning experience."

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