MARIETTA - Parent Linda Carver of Marietta was a bit hesitant as she sent her two children off to Phillips Elementary School Monday morning.
"If I had it my way, my kids wouldn't have gone back to school today," she said. "And I kept my phones at work and home open all day, just in case there was a call. But the good thing they do at this school is keep watch on the kids and make sure people coming in the door register in the office."
As classes resumed in Washington County on Monday, area schools focused on keeping the day as normal and routine as possible in the wake of Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six teachers were killed by a lone gunman.
Photo by Sam Shawver
Children at Phillips Elementary School board a school bus at the end of the day on Monday in Marietta.
Keisha Maas has a child in first grade at Phillips. She, too, felt some concern Monday morning.
"I was kind of nervous, but sent her anyway. I walked her down the steps and waited until the bus came to pick her up," she said. "I guess it was more of my own concern and not hers. I learned that one of the boys who was a victim in the Connecticut shooting had been a neighbor of my uncle in New Jersey."
Sending her niece off to school will never be the same, according to Melanie Lightfritz of Marietta.
"What happened in Connecticut will always go through my mind every day now," she said. "My niece hasn't talked about it, but this is really sad. It's something we never had to think about when I was in school."
Phillips Elementary teacher Stacey Hall, whose son is also a first-grader at the school, said only two or three children mentioned Friday's incident to her.
"One girl told me she was wearing green - something people on Facebook were asking people to do in memory of the children at Sandy Hook," she said. "Another little girl asked if I'd heard what happened. I said yes, and that I was very disappointed about it - there weren't a lot of conversations, but we gave a lot of hugs today."
Melissa Hartline, second grade teacher at Waterford Elementary School, said there were no questions about the shooting from her class, but noted other teachers said some older students had commented on the incident.
"They took some time and talked with those students about it, but basically today was just like any other Monday morning," she said.
Kindergarten teacher Dawn Spurr, at Beverly Center Elementary School, agreed.
"We kept the day as routine as possible and no one brought the issue up," she said.
Spurr said she did lead her students through a fire and safety drill.
"But there were a lot of heavy hearts in the teachers' lounge," she added. "The atmosphere was pretty subdued there. But we wanted to make it a very routine day for our students."
Beth Maidens, who teaches kindergarten at Barlow-Vincent Elementary School, said she thought all weekend about what she might say to her students on Monday.
"I took the approach that if there were any questions I would give very few details about the shooting itself and emphasize that we have plans in place to be sure our kids are very safe," she said.
As it turned out there were no questions from her students, but all three of the first grade teachers said some students had questions for them.
Maidens said principal Stephanie Starcher held a voluntary staff meeting at 7:45 a.m. Monday for anyone that wanted to participate in voluntary prayer for Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Most of the teaching staff was there," Maidens said. "And there were a lot of tears during the prayers."
She said the morning session seemed to help make the day more tolerable. Maidens also said Barlow-Vincent staff reviewed the school's safety plan.
"Every school across the country now knows this isn't just something that can happen in a high school or middle school - it's finally hit in elementary school," she said. "And that's something we've never had to deal with before."
Principal Scott Kratche, at Washington Elementary School in Marietta, said there wasn't much noticeable impact at that facility, although one parent did call to say her child was not yet ready to return to school Monday after learning about Friday's shooting.
"There's been a little talk and a lot of reflection going on among the staff," he said. "And this incident does make us recognize the importance of doing everything we can to keep our schools safer."
Jona Hall, principal at Putnam Elementary School in Devola, said the subject of Friday's shooting incident wasn't brought up at the school Monday.
"I emailed the staff over the weekend and said if a student seemed to have a lot of concern about the incident they should direct him or her to the guidance counselor who is trained to handle these situations," she said.
Hall said a couple of fifth graders had asked if she knew about what had happened in Connecticut.
"I just responded yes, and it was very sad," she said. "Then the students went on without further questions."
But Hall added that the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was a main topic of discussion during the staff's annual Christmas luncheon Monday.
On Friday Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine responded to news of the Connecticut shooting by urging Ohio schools that have not yet done so to file school safety plans and floor plans of school buildings with his office, as required by state law. He noted another shooting that took place in Chardon, Ohio, earlier this year had spurred him to encourage all Ohio schools to file their safety plans.
DeWine said as a result more than 1,000 schools have filed the plans, but as of Monday 138 had still not filed.
Those facilities include Ewing School in Marietta, and St. Sylvester School in Woodsfield, according to Dan Tierney, spokesman for DeWine's office.
John Dehmlow, president of the Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities that oversees Ewing School, was not aware that the school's safety plan had not been filed with the state, and said he would be contacting school superintendent Susan Tilton about the filing.
But Dehmlow noted the school does have functional safety plans in place to deal with fires, tornadoes, or other emergency situations.
Tierney said the state legislature passed a law in 2007 requiring the filing of school safety plans, and the first plans began to be filed in the following year.
He said the plans are uploaded into the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OLEG) database and provide vital information to police and other authorities, not only about floor plans, but also about where children may be located when emergencies occur.
Tierney said each school is also required to update the plans every three years or after any facilities upgrades.