On Sunday, at approximately 1 p.m., faculty, parents and members of the Methacton School Community received an Alert-Now message/letter from district superintendent Dr. Timothy Quinn. The letter, which was also posted on the school district’s website, was in response to the tragic Dec. 14 shooting that left a reported 27 dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In the letter, Quinn expressed deep sympathies to the Sandy Hook Elementary School community, and ensured Methacton School District families that the school district has extensive safety planning and emergency preparedness measures already in place.
He also wrote that school counselors and psychologists will be available to any student in need, and provided additional resources via the district website to assist parents on discussing the event.
Speaking with Patch today, Quinn explained that he wanted to hold off an official district response until the end of the weekend, as to give time for parents to directly address the deadly shootings with their children.
"It was a respect of their role as parents,” Quinn said.
He added that district schools will continue to research age-appropriate responses, but will not address the incident to students in a group setting. He emphasized that students will be encouraged to speak with school counselors or psychologists on an individual basis.
In a seperate letter to the district's faculty, also sent over the weekend, Quinn noted that special care should be taken in not discussing detais of the incident with younger students, while older students should be repeatedly reminded that they are safe in school.
"I think we should let them know that we too are sad, we are angry about it, but we should do it in a reassuring way, such that they are sure we are in control," Quinn wrote of the potential discussion with the district's older students.
Safety and Emergency Preparedness at Methacton
Upon learning of the Connecticut shootings on Friday, Quinn said that the students were not alerted of the incident, allowing teachers to continue the lessons for the day.
“We kept the focus on education, right where it belonged,” Quinn said.
On the morning of Dec. 17, however, the district’s central office placed increased safety and communications efforts throughout the entire school district.
According to Quinn, working with the Janeen Marzewski of the district’s Safety and Community Services office, school building administrators and faculty reviewed safety and emergency procedures prior to the school day.
Quinn described such school district safety measures as extensive, which include school building protocols for screening visitors, locking doors and regular fire and safety drills.
As a further example of the extensive safety procedures, Quinn highlighted a drill, new to the district, called the “Active-Shooter” Drill, which was first practiced at Arcola Intermediate School over a year ago.
Quinn said all school principals and employees from the district’s central office increased their presence on school grounds today. He also noted that staff development scheduled for today was cancelled to ensure that students were with their teachers in their classrooms.
The most apparent increase in security were the presence of Lower Providence Police officers outside every school of the district.
According to Quinn, he arranged for the police presence with Lower Providence Township police chief Francis Carroll over the weekend.
“We wanted to have their presence here to be secure and to show parents the solidarity we have with the community,” Quinn said.
Quinn said that the increased police presence at every school will last throughout the school day today, and expects that the police will remain highly visible at least through the rest of this week.
He also notes that the school district already has an ongoing relationship with Lower Providence Police through its School Resource Officer program, in which Lower Providence Police officers provide regular presence and educational interaction with Methacton students.
“It’s an added layer of security,” Quinn said.
He also notes that last year, the school district petitioned Montgomery County courts for the right to have a Methacton-run police force.
In the Coming Weeks
Also in the community letter, Quinn said he is confident that the Methacton School Community will come together to present opportunities that will show support for the Newtown Community.
“Our faculty and our students always rise to the occasion,” Quinn said.
For the additional resources made available through the district website, click here.