Administrators and teachers at school districts across the North Fork got ready over the weekend to address on Monday the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School — a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. that took the lives of 20 young children, six adults and shook people around the nation to the core last Friday.
But in even the tiny district of New Suffolk, home to a mixed-grade elementary school of 20 kids, students were silent on the issue, said school administrator Maria Gizzo, adding that she other staff members emailed each other over the weekend on how to handle the issue.
“We tried to figure out the best way to address it if the students had questions, but the day ended up as business as usual,” she said. “I think a lot of families discussed the issue at home and stayed away from newspapers. So far so good here … but I think after this, we all need to recheck ourselves, take another look at ourselves. People everywhere need to do that.”
Oysterponds Elementary School Superintendent Richard Malone said he and the school psychologist made recommendations to the staff over the weekend as well on how to address the tragedy at Sandy Hook. He said the that teachers were ready if the children brought it up, but it was not an issue on Monday.
“We were committed to having a normal school day,” Malone said. “It’s the week before Christmas, and normalcy is the focus.”
Malone said that safety plans and procedures will be reviewed at a faculty meeting Tuesday night at the Orient elementary school. When he started as superintendent this past summer, Malone had a safety door with a buzzer and monitor installed in the front entrance of the building — something that he said was initially criticized for but he believes is now appreciated.
“I received two very nice emails thanking me for the new door,” he said.
Greenport School Superintendent Michael Comanda described the mood of the entire K – 12 school as “somber” on Monday.
“That’s just how it’s been — not a whole lot of discussion, but when we do talk about it we can’t help but cry,” he said, adding that the school’s crisis management team met early in the morning before school on Monday and that guidance counselors were on hand all day, for the little ones and the older students.
“We’re all just very sad," he said.
Greenport School will hold another “Rachel's Challenge" — a series of student empowering programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair — meeting after school for students on Wednesday.