NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Even though the communities are nearly 1,000 miles apart, officials in Newton and Rockdale counties took precautions Friday after a gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school.
A man in his 20s shot and killed nearly 30 people, including 20 children and other staff members, on Friday morning in what appears to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. The gunman also was found dead in the building.
Others were hospitalized.
On Friday afternoon, Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews issued as a precaution a code yellow for his schools -- staff members were expected to be especially diligent, outer doors to schools were locked and front doors were monitored.
NCSS Director of Public Relations Sherri Davis-Viniard sent a message to all parents informing them of the precaution and urging parents who may have questions about security at their child's school to not hesitate to contact the NCSS office. She also asked for prayers for those in Newtown who are most affected by the tragedy.
Rockdale County's schools also were monitored.
Area law enforcement agencies alerted all personnel about the tragedy.
Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington said RCSO school resource officers were alerted immediately when the news came in.
"We sent an email alerting school resource officers about the situation in Connecticut, and Lt. Mike Sellars is contacting each of them personally," he said Friday. "We're on high alert when we know a situation like this is going on and we want our deputies to watch for any suspicious activity or anything that might raise suspicion."
Newton authorities also said all school resource officers were notified immediately upon learning of the situation in Connecticut.
"We have an awareness anyway, but anything like this brings home the fact that we need to be ever vigilant about potential problems or issues in schools," said Newton County Sheriff's Office Capt. Mark Mitchell, who added that the NCSO would be assigning deputies to increase patrols and have a visual presence at all schools in the county in the coming days. "We're ever aware that we need to be working together with school administrators and to better our training to respond to any type of tragic incident such as this."
After word got out in Connecticut, parents rushed to Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, looking for their children in the wake of the shooting. Students were told by police to close their eyes as they were led from the building.
The Associated Press and News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this report.