Unused school offers Sandy Hook a new home, and path forward
Sandy Hook teachers are recreating classrooms, and parents and children are touring the unused school just six miles away that has rushed to get ready. Even the color scheme will be familiar.
(Page 2 of 2)
The district is taking a flexible approach to allow teachers time off when they need it, says Eric Excell-Bailey, communications director for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Connecticut. State mental health officials have been coordinating counseling services to help in Newtown and beyond.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“Some people, part of their coping mechanism is, ‘I want to get back to work immediately,’ ” Mr. Excell-Bailey says. But a lot of others he talked to in Newtown “said ‘I’m not there yet, I’m not ready to go back.’ The main concern for them about going back too soon was that their fears would translate to the children. But … they also felt guilty that they were not emotionally ready to go back. [Counselors have been helping] them understand that what they’re feeling is normal and that they shouldn’t feel guilty…. They really need to take that time that they need.”
The union has learned several lessons from consultants in a school district in Ohio that endured a shooting tragedy about 10 months ago. For one, counseling and flexibility will be needed long-term.
The emotional response kicks in for many people three to four weeks after the tragedy, Excell-Bailey says, and “there will be some who say ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’ … but invariably somewhere down the road something will occur that [will] bring it back for them and they might need the support then.”
Teachers are being trained to provide peer support as well.
Schoolchildren from around the state are sending in painted handprints that will be posted all over the new Sandy Hook to greet students in January – “a symbolic gesture of, ‘We’re with you,’ ” says Excell-Bailey.
Fifteen-thousand messages of condolence and encouragement from around the world poured in within the first 24 hours of a mechanism being set up to receive them on the website of the Connecticut AFT.
Groups such as the AFT, the National Education Association, and the Connecticut Department of Education have posted resources for parents and educators to help students cope with the aftermath of the shootings. One resource is the National Association of School Psychologists’ “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.”
Friday morning at 9:30, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has requested a moment of silence statewide. Houses of worship and government buildings with bells will ring them 26 times to honor the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“We have to move forward,” Superintendent Robinson told CBS News. “It is good for kids to know that we are strong and that as a community we support them.”