- Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 28, 2012

Local officials reaction to Newtown

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — The moment of silence held before every Slippery Rock Area School Board meeting lasted a few beats longer than usual Monday night --- everyone's thoughts with Newtown, Conn., the small town still reeling from Friday's deadly elementary school shooting.

The end of the meeting held the same, serious tone as Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Nogay spoke of the "absolutely horrific" event and how the district is reviewing its own security measures to ensure the safety of staff and students.

"We're on top of it and we're working through it," she said, adding automated phone messages and emails were sent Sunday to families with children in the district and letters were sent home with students Monday.

Twenty students and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Authorities say 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home and then took her car and some of her guns to the school, where he broke in and opened fire and committed suicide.

A Connecticut official said the mother, a gun enthusiast who practiced at shooting ranges, was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the rampage, which has spurred discussions across the country about the safety and security of schools and other public facilities.

"There are certainly some questions about that," Dr. Nogay said.

School officials themselves wonder what kind of measures could have prevented Friday's attack, but Sandy Hook had proper procedures in place, the same that Slippery Rock uses: safety drills, secure vestibules and a buzzer system for visitors.

"They did everything right," she said.

Dr. Nogay gives a lot of credit to district staff for helping keep things on track. Crisis teams from each building have met several times since Friday and planned to meet again Tuesday to review emergency plans and possibly recommend updates for the board to consider.

"It takes all of us to get it done," Dr. Nogay said.

The district has crisis plans for a number of situations and is "vigilant" about keeping doors locked and monitoring visitors, but school officials need to decide if the vestibules can be more secure, she said.

She's received positive feedback from parents and the community about how the district kept things running smoothly Friday and Monday.

"Today was business as usual. That's what you want. But our thoughts and our prayers are with those in Connecticut," Dr. Nogay said.

After the meeting, she said about 3,500 households received the phone message, email and letters, which provided advice and resources for how to talk to children about Friday's events and explained how the district is reviewing its crisis plans.

The district will continue to use its unarmed security guard who is at the high school every day, she said when asked what she thought of Butler Area School District's decision to use an armed officer.

Butler school directors recently voted to let officers carry guns but expedited the process after Friday's shooting and got a court order allowing armed officers in each of its schools on Monday. That includes the South Butler County School District.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Published Dec. 19, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.