Local authorities are increasing patrols and police presence around schools in Cartersville and Bartow County following Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
A total of 27 people were killed—20 students, ages 6 and 7; six adults at the school, including the principal and a counselor; and the mother of the lone gunman who took his own life, Newtown Patch reports.
Bartow County Schools Police Chief Dan Knowles said he's asked staff members to ensure local schools are secure and prepare for emergencies.
"The staff members see those building every day," said Knowles. "If there's a door that won't lock, if there's an intercom problem, if they need a new radio, anything along that line, let's start looking at that now."
Knowles' department is teaming with area law enforcement agencies to patrol near schools, including Cartersville City Schools, according to Superintendent Howard Hinesley and Cartersville Police Department Capt. Mark Camp.
"We do not have any plans to staff the schools with additional officers at this time," Camp said via email. "We are however increasing patrols in the areas of the schools."
Bartow County Schools released this statement:
In light of the tragic events in Connecticut, the Bartow County Schools Police department, in conjunction with Georgia State Patrol, the Bartow County Sheriff's Department, and local city police departments around our county have placed an increased presence at all of our schools with an emphasis on our elementary locations for the remainder of this week. All locations have been instructed to review Safety Plans already in place. These plans and facilities will be under review for the weeks to come should adjustments need to be made. The safety of our students and staff are our top priority. Our world has changed and so must our approach to school safety. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families in Newtown, CT.
"There was no hesitation. We're all on the same bandwagon. We need to make sure our kids are safe," Knowles said.
Like their counterparts in Bartow, Cartersville Schools "plan after the first of the year when we know more from Connecticut [to] sit down as an administrative team and evaluate [what we learn] against our emergency procedures,” which are updated each year and critiqued by a state agency, said Hinesley.
"All we know is what we read and there’s so much misinformation about what happened in Connecticut, but what I can say is if you have a visitor in your building that’s not supposed to be there and you know that—we have, in writing, protocol of what steps should be taken, and we of course, as recently as today and over the weekend as well, have reminded our school administrators to make sure they continue to remind people what the steps are [for the] different situations," Hinesley said, adding staffers not on hand each day, such as substitute teachers, would be made aware of the procedures.
Meanwhile, parents are concerned.
"The events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School [have] and will affect us all. This is the most horrible living nightmare I could imagine for any school system," Knowles said in an email to county schools staff members. "It has been a busy morning for us, as most have expected, answering the concerns of the community as to the safety of our children."
Knowles told Cartersville Patch the most popular request he received Monday was for a police officer to be posted at each school, but he said he doesn't have the manpower.
"After every major event, [things] change. Columbine changed the way we respond and that's what actually saved lives up there in Connecticut," Knowles added. "[The police] went in immediately and they didn't try to circle the place first. [Sept. 11] changed how we fly.
"I'm sure as the dust settles from this and the investigation goes, we'll see some changes start to come out. We're stepping back and looking at what we do and what changes we need to take. It's on ongoing evaluation."
In Newtown, another school is being prepared for displaced Sandy Hook students and staffers as the first of several services to honor and mourn the victims began today.
"All of us. You just think something like that would never happen, but it definitely can occur,” Hinesley said, adding he previously was employed by a school system that saw one person fatally wounded in a school shooting. "I know exactly; you've got to have in place protocol and you’ve got to continually emphasize it so that you can minimize any type of consequences."
Parents, teachers and community members, tell us in the comments how the Sandy Hook school shooting has affected you, your family or your workplace. Do you feel safe? Are your kids safe?
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