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Counselors available, principals meet after Conn. school shooting

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System continues to support its school families, after the elementary school shooting in Connecticut that left 27 people dead, including 20 kindergarten students, on Friday.

NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews issued a letter to parents on Saturday, announcing that school counselors and administrators are available to respond to students and parents as needed.

"The safety of our students is our main concern," he said.

He added that schools have crisis plans in place and that they each practice emergency response drills.

"We continually evaluate our safety and security procedures," Mathews said. "Unfortunately, the events in Newtown, Connecticut, serve as a stark reminder for the importance of these school safety procedures."

Additionally, he said Monday that a code yellow soft lockdown will remain in place from Friday for at least this short week before winter break "out of an abundance of caution" -- staff are expected to be especially diligent, outer doors to schools are locked and front doors are monitored.

Jeff Meadors, vice chair of the Newton County Board of Education, said that he received calls over the weekend that not every school complied with Mathews' requested lockdown on Friday.

"That's unacceptable to me," Meadors said, adding that he's also heard from people who complain about the ease of gaining access into schools. "This has to end, and it has to end now."

Principals met for a mandatory meeting on Monday afternoon to review school safety procedures, Mathews reported.

"While no amount of planning can guarantee that a tragedy such as this will not occur, we do everything we know to keep students and staff safe while at school," Mathews said in the parent letter.

He encouraged parents to talk to their children.

"As we learn more details about this tragic incident in the days and weeks ahead, it will be important for you to spend time talking with your children and helping them cope with this news," Mathews said. "We know that children may raise questions and concerns about this tragedy."

The American Psychological Association advises parents to talk with their children about their worries, keep them home in a safe place during times of crisis, limit constant exposure to the crisis and watch for signs of stress, fear and anxiety.

"I have elementary-age children enrolled in our school system, and the events that unfolded on Friday in Connecticut hit very close to home," said school board member Abigail Coggin. "My daughter is the same age as many of the innocent victims. I cannot begin to imagine what those students and teachers went through or do I even want to imagine what their families are living through right now. I, as a parent, have many concerns about our children's safety, and I know our school system and personnel will do their best to keep our children safe."

In a response to questions from The Citizen, Mathews said that system officials have not yet "had substantive discussions" about placing School Resource Officers in the county's 13 elementary schools.

"Budget reductions, rather than additions, have been the norm," Mathews said about discussions. "The addition of SROs at each of our elementary schools may be something to really look at in light of the assault on little children and teachers and principal in Connecticut."

Currently, NCSS pays the Newton County Board of Commissioners about $735,000 annually for providing 14 SROs at the system's middle and high schools. Peggy Bullard, business manager at NCSS, said it would cost another nearly $787,000 to add SROs at the 13 elementary schools, the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett and the Newton College & Career Academy, based on the current contract amount.

"I would rather look at spending dollars on student safety than capital projects. Our students are our greatest capital, both intellectually and otherwise," Meadors said. "I would like to see zero-basing of our budget to go item by item to determine if the dollars we currently spend are being spent well and wisely, and place a high priority on ensuring the safety of all students, Pre-K to seniors."

Comments

Tatersalad 2 years ago

So I guess some think that the kids dont think the kids don't need counseling after this. So what exactly is up? So alcovy doesn't want to comply imagine that. To me that shows disrespect to the kids. Wow. What a shame. Get on it counselors of alcovy.

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Henrycounselor 2 years ago

Meadors is absolutely right this is unacceptable. Myself being in the counseling field find this very sad that school counselors will not comply with Mathews on this and especially alcovy. Come on counselors get with the program will you? Such a shame.

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OnToday 2 years ago

So we only lock doors and monitor front doors during soft lockdowns? That doesn't sound right. And I have talked to students and teachers who are at various local schools and they haven't practiced drills in years! But Mathews believes they have. Come on!!!!!!!

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Satan69 2 years ago

Not doing drills and ignoring the super isn't going to keep anyone safe. That's a shame.

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Henrycounselor 2 years ago

These are the same people that don't take bullying serious why in the heck would a school shooting be different to them? Seems to me its like this as long as it isn't them going through the heartache they turn the other cheek but when it hits home. Its please help me. That kind of behavior upsets me. You should be compassionate regardless if the children are yours or not. Knowing what its like to lose a child of your own isn't pleasant so instead of these individuals just thinking about their own selfish existence maybe they should think and comprehend what has happened and comply with Mathews on this.

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Satan69 2 years ago

Mathews I think that was a wonderful idea to get counselors to speak to kids and parents about the shooting if they needed. What makes me sick is the noncompliance of some. I find it very sad that they didn't follow your directions. Also meadors I'm glad you are something about it too this needs to be dealt with. Sad just plain sad. No worries Gary your heart was in the right place, some just don't see how ignorant they are being.

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Thishonky 2 years ago

There were NO drills done at Alcovy High School while Dennis and LaQuanda Carpenter were carrying on their lawsuit - check it out here: http://www.oci.ga.gov/PublicEducation/SchoolFireDrillReport.aspx total violation of law.

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Tairuna 2 years ago

You know rules and regulations were and are put into place for a reason. Don't some people think that this is necessary in case something was to happen? You never know when something like this will happen and where. Which is a shame that little children and teenagers have to worry not only about school work but all this added stress. Just makes me wonder why people won't comply with simple instruction that would and could possibly save lives in the process. Wow.

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MamaTurd 2 years ago

I'm sure most people are under the impression that they do their drills like they should. What's a problem is they don't and none ever knows when a fire might break out or something more tragic may happen. However given the fact panick can happen prepared or not. But not being prepared is avoidable.

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dennistay53 2 years ago

I'm sorry but none of what is being suggested is enough. We just lost 26 of the most precious we have in America, Children and teachers shot down in cold blood. I don't care what it cost we have to protect our children, teachers and schools above all. I don't care if you are democrat, replublican, independent this has to be the goal. We already have people in place to at least handle the security of our schools at least temporary. If i was President or member of congress, or Governor of Ga i would already have authorized military or national guard to every school in this state and country. At least 2 per school. It is the responsible of the military to protect the citizens of this country both here as well as abroad, and there is no citizens as precious as our children. They can't protect themselves. If i a member of the board of commissioners or school board i would be in Washington or Atlanta asking for this. If i was a member of congress or the state legistrature i would be jumping up on top of my desk asking for this. I would be asking for many security cameras in the school parking lots so these murders could be brought down before they reach the schools. Some would say this is over reaction. We just lost 26 precious people in a state and city of low crime. Let's let this be the last.

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RV30015 1 year, 12 months ago

Commissioner-elect John Douglas wrote a nice argument for Emergency Action Plans in the other paper today. Board member Jeff Meadors has stated here that some are ignoring the plans in place. Thank you both for being open and honest but if you look at this public website for example you see that many schools are not reporting and possibly not doing drills required by state. If they are not reported how do we know if they took place. For example Alcovy High School has failed to do 21 required state fire drills in the last 3 years. Veterans reports none in 3 years but Oak Hill has done 100% of them so I think the data is accurate. What does NCSS have to say for schools like Alcovy that are failing to follow the law? Here is the link:
http://www.oci.ga.gov/PublicEducation/SchoolFireDrillReport.aspx

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MamaTurd 1 year, 12 months ago

Why have 21 state required fire drills failed to be reported on LaQuanda Carpenter's watch.

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ilovecovington 1 year, 12 months ago

Another great reason as to why my kid is Homeschooled. The public school systems are failing, and until someone gets serious about our kids, I would never put my child in one.

It is sad that we cannot keep the adult teachers from molesting our kids, bullies from bullying our kids, people breaking in and hurting our kids, along with the drugs...how are we keeping them safe inside a building that is for learning?

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John 1 year, 12 months ago

If NCSS can find it acceptable to pay an additional $500,000 for atheltic field lights & other similar "missed judgments" -there must be away to get this done and with a little creative thinking some additional security measures won't require an additional dime.

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Henrycounselor 1 year, 12 months ago

@ilovecovington they arent keeping them safe that is the problem. It is sad that we send our kids to school and have to be scared to death while they are gone. If it isn't a child taking lives it is someone breaking into the school and shooting up the school or attempting to do so. @ dennistay I agree none of this is enough and we need to have better plans set into place.

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John 1 year, 11 months ago

Having a plan in place is one thing but the plan has to executed, each day and every day without fail, no exceptions or excuses allowed. IMHO current plans aren't being followed down to the T. Clear responsibility of assignments, accountability and ability to measure by school administrators from the Super on down MUST be implemented and if they mess up they must go (immediately). Right now it seems very lax and finger pointing is a well used tactic. Students leave schools through various doors besides the main front & rear entrances without any effort & they let others in from the same doors. Just look at doors near the agriculture classes that access the outside green houses.

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Tairuna 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm very concerned about all of this.

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