Whitehall City School District officials have been watching the coverage of Newtown, Conn., with the rest of the world, and they know the importance of students' safety.
Twenty first-grade students and six teachers were killed Dec. 14 at a Connecticut elementary school.
Although school shootings have become more common in the past decade, never before had the horror been unleashed upon children as young as the 12 girls and 8 boys, all 6 and 7 years old, killed in the classrooms at Sandy Hook School in Newtown by a 20-year-old man who took his own life.
As children returned to school in Whitehall on Monday, Dec. 17, the Whitehall Division of Police provided officers at all five of the district's schools: Beechwood, Etna and Kae Road elementary schools, Rosemore Junior High School and Whitehall-Yearling High School.
Typically, the district's lone school resource officer, Spencer Salyers, is at the high school, but on Dec. 17, the police department placed officers at every school.
"Today we want to be as normal as possible," Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy said.
The presence of police, however, illustrated that all was not normal.
"We have counselors and social workers available as needed," Dobbert-Meloy said.
Such counselors are available to students daily, but she said she has stressed their availability in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.
In a recorded message Dobbert-Meloy sent to subscribed parents Dec. 17, she expressed her condolences and reassured parents about the safety precautions that are and remain in place to make students as safe as possible.
She said the district would revisit its security measures.
"Later this week, I will sit down with my team of administrators and our school resource officer and study anything else we can do to enhance our safety in our schools," she said.
Salyers said numerous teachers thanked him Monday for the readiness and lockdown drills that had been practiced at the start of the current school year.
Salyers worked with school officials at each building over the summer to practice lockdown procedures and safety tactics in the event of an intruder or other threat at the school.
“Several teaches thanked me and told me they felt prepared,” he said.
The procedures already have been put into practice. Beechwood Elementary School was placed on lockdown several weeks ago when a suspect wanted for a nonschool-related crime was known to have a gun and was at large in the general vicinity of the school.
“We will continue to have drills,” Salyers said, but not in response to Sandy Hook, as such drills already were normal operating procedure.
As the investigation reveals further details about how the gunman forced entry into the building and carried out the attack, that information will be applied to safety measures in place at Whitehall schools, Dobbert-Meloy said.