“We just did everything we could to reassure them.” said Saranac Elementary Principal Tracy Manor, who noted that the timing of the mistake couldn’t have been worse, as parents were already shaken by the events in Connecticut.
The school had only been using the messaging system — commonly used by other schools to alert parents of absences and school events — for a few days when the error occurred.
“Internal controls have been put in place to prevent that from happening in the future,” Manor said.
The best way to help people feel safe in schools, according to AuSable Valley Central Superintendent Paul Savage, is to maintain open lines of communication with students, teachers, staff and the public.
“Safety is a unified effort, and open communication and trust are essential cornerstones to helping ensure safety for our schools,” he said.
Faculty and staff at school districts across the North Country came to class Monday prepared to address the range of emotions and questions students might have regarding the events in Connecticut and school safety in general.
At Saranac Elementary, fourth-grade teacher Jacolyn Utzler heard her students discussing the tragedy among themselves and began the day by asking if anyone had anything they wanted to ask or share.
Utzler said she spent time reminding the children about all the adults who work together in the school to keep them safe and how their school is fortunate to have locks on their classroom doors, as well as on the building’s external doors.
The discussion, she said, seemed to be reassuring to the students.
“I think there was a sigh of relief,” she said.
In response to children’s questions about why someone would enter a school and harm children, Utzler explained that mental illness can cause people to do things they wouldn’t do if they were well.