COQUITLAM — It would be nearly impossible to avoid the coverage of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school last week.
But as word of the tragedy spread last Friday, School District 43 officials were already bracing for a response to deal with concerned parents, children and educators a nation away in Coquitlam.
On Friday, the district sent out an electronic letter to schools and parents regarding the shooting expressing “shock,” noting there would be some anxiety over the incident.
“While the potential for such an incident taking place in our schools is very low, staff members have been asked to watch for student reaction and to privately offer support if needed,” read the letter, which was also posted on the district’s website.
The letter also cautioned parents to be “very careful to protect preschool and elementary-aged children from exposure to news media images and stories regarding the school shooting, as well as avoid overexposure generally, while acknowledging their feelings and providing reassurance.”
SD 43 spokesperson Cheryl Quinton said the district consulted with its critical-incident team to discuss a response to news of the shooting.
She said the district is advising school staff to refrain from showing images or video footage of the incident with students and recommending any discussion in the classroom be limited to “a brief sharing of facts.”
“When anything like this happens, it affects the school community very much,” Quinton told The NOW, adding the first priority of educators is the safety of their children.
The shooting that took the lives of 26 people, including 20 children, in the small community of Newtown, has also prompted the inevitable questions of security at schools locally.
Just last week, Mundy Road Elementary was put on lockdown after students reported seeing a man with a gun walking through the school grounds.
Police searched the area, but nothing was found.
In March, Dr. Charles Best Secondary went into lockdown after a teen was spotted in the school possibly carrying a gun.
A 16-year-old former student was charged in relation to the incident, but no gun was ever found.
Quinton noted in both cases, the district protocols put in place to deal with those exact situations were followed correctly.
Though school district officials wouldn’t divulge specific details of its emergency procedures publicly, it was noted staff are trained in the protocols and several lockdown drills are carried out during the school year.
“Situations like this always provide an opportunity for looking at protocols to make sure those protocols are in place,” Quiton said.
However, Quinton added even the best planning can’t prevent incidents like the shooting last Friday.