Twin Cities schools calm nerves, review security

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , MARIA BACA, and HERON MARQUEZ S tar Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 8:43 PM

Across the Twin Cities, schools went over their policies and tried to make Monday seem as normal as possible.

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Michele Peters walked her son Logan to kindergarten class at Burroughs Community School in Minneapolis.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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At Community of Peace Academy in St. Paul, middle- and high-school students held a moment of silence.

Field Community School in south Minneapolis sent a letter to parents that it's tightening security for visitors.

A police officer greeted students and parents at Garlough Environmental School in West St. Paul.

Minnesota schools did their best to calm jangled nerves of students, staff members and parents while making the first day back since Friday's massacre in Connecticut seem as normal as possible. Schools didn't bring up details of the rampage but had counselors on hand. Parents wrestled with how much to tell their kids if they talked about it at all.

But as the first of the children were buried in Newton, Conn., it was also a day to take a moment to reflect and remember.

Gretchen Selberg said she was in the middle of getting after her kids to get their coats on a typically hectic Monday, when she was struck by the tragedy.

"I paused and was grateful for where we are. I just paused to be grateful and in remembrance," she said as she dropped off Berik, 8 and Soren, 6, at Burroughs Community School in southwest Minneapolis, where the flag was at half staff Monday morning.

Security tightened

Numerous schools across the Twin Cities reviewed security and many reminded parents of what procedures are in place.

Field announced Monday that it's tightening security.

In a letter to parents, Principal Steve Norlin-Weaver said he met with members of the school's Emergency Safety Team and decided to begin work to secure the main entrance. Between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., visitors will have to buzz the main office and identify themselves before they'll be buzzed in. The school said it will alert parents when this goes into effect.

At Robbinsdale Area Schools, the director of Safety and Emergency Services was in district schools throughout the day but no changes are imminent, said spokeswoman Tia Clasen.

"We did, of course, encourage all staff to have a heightened sense of their surroundings, and of students who may need some help processing such a horrible tragedy," she said.

What to say?

Many school districts sent letters or e-mails to parents about the best way to talk to their children about the shootings. Most schools said they refrained from bringing up details and instead provided counselors.

"Crisis events are not an automatic teachable moment for every student," Norlin-Weaver, Field's principal, wrote in the parent letter. "Therefore, rather than focusing on the tragic events from last Friday we elected to not discuss the incident with students in school unless students themselves bring it to our attention."

As she dropped off her children at Dayton's Bluff Elementary School in St. Paul, Dawn Blasen said she had tried to shield her two kids from details over the weekend. But news coverage came up on the radio while she was taking her son, Andrew Williams, a second-grader, to school, and he immediately asked: How could the shooter get guns?

"I said, 'I wish I knew,'" she said.

Blasen said that she was angry about the shootings but that her son was set to go about his day.

"I've got to give him props for that. If I were in second grade, I'd say, 'Mom, I'm not going to school,'" she said.

Farmington Schools Superintendent Jay Haugen toured several schools Monday and is meeting with staff Tuesday to review emergency procedures. It's a road he said they've been down before.

"Sadly, all the information is merely a reminder to our staff; they have been through this before," he said in a letter to staff members.

Staff writer Steve Brandt contributed to this report. Heron.marquez@startribune.com anthony.lonetree@startribune.com maria.baca@startribune.com

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