JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Schools around the country are reviewing security plans and in some cases adding extra law enforcement patrols to prepare for the first day of classes since a shooting massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut.
A gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday and killed 26 people before shooting himself. The dead include 20 children ages 6 and 7.
"As educators, we can only begin to imagine how they are feeling as a result of this senseless act, but know that as a school community they will fight through this with the support of the entire nation.," Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wrote.
Districts in Florida and Georgia are among those asking local law enforcement to add patrols. Many stressed that they have safety plans that are regularly tested, but they will now review those plans.
"It's an awful reminder, but it's a reminder of us to not allow that to be a book on a shelf, or a chart on a wall, but we bring those pieces to life," said Tim Forson, deputy superintendent of St. Johns County Schools.
Forson said the county's entire team of 56 counselors preparing for the questions and confusion that will come Monday after such a senseless act of violence.
Duval County's students begin winter break Monday, but Nikolai Vitti posted an letter to parents that included links to resources to help children deal with violence and death.
"It's a horrible task to try to explain to a child what has happened, especially since it's not understandable to us as adults. You will be needed by your children now more than ever," Vitti wrote.
Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho contacted the Newtown Public Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson and offered the support of Miami-Dade's crisis management team that includes school psychologists, counselors and social workers.
In Savannah, Chatham County Public School Police Chief Ulysses Bryant said the district goes through "what if" scenarios to prepare for the worst. Law officers already are familiar with school layouts, he said.
While schools are a "controlled environment," he said, they also are public spaces and not restricted areas.
"Best thing you can do is plan as best you can, take all the precautions you can," he said.
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