It has been a few school days since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the educators in Berlin have settled back into their normal routines as much as possible…but they will likely never be the same.
“The elementary school principals sent messages to their parents Friday afternoon to let them know what we were doing in response,” Berlin Superintendent David B. Erwin said. “We met Monday morning with the administrators and the Chief of Police to go over what we would do at the beginning and end of the school day and that was to have police officers at all of the schools at those times at least through Friday.”
Erwin said he was confident in the school system’s emergency response plan, which is reviewed yearly. The plan, which includes “Code Reds” where students rehearse what they would do in a situation like what happened in Newtown.
“We talk about it annually with the Police Chief but we will review it to go over some issues,” Erwin said. “We will also talk to John Pajor to make sure that all the locks are workable. There is not a lot of major work but we want to make sure we are taking every precaution.”
Erwin said personally that he is still somewhat in shock and had some personal connections to the incident.
“I had met the principal years ago and I had a friend who worked at another elementary school in Newtown,” Erwin said. “I had tried to reach him several times and finally got a text just saying he was exhausted. I saw him speak on CNN and was finally able to speak to him and he was OK just exhausted.
“I know the superintendent and actually have good friends who were close with the Pinto family and their son was one of the children who was killed. It is tough because you don’t know how to react. It is beyond belief to think of those innocent little children who won’t be waking up on Christmas morning. This time of the year is supposed to be so joyous and you have something like this happen. It’s unimaginable.”
Erwin said he has dealt with some tough issues in education but they all pale in comparison to this.
“I’ve been in Education for 35 years and nothing comes close to this,” he said. “I worked in a school district where we had a fire and it displaced all the students and we had to find someplace else to teach them. At that time, we thought how horrible it was. Now looking back it was nothing compared to this, a minor inconvenience.”
Erwin said Mayor Adam Salina, Town Manager Denise McNair, the Board of Education and the Police Dept. have been very helpful in these trying days.
“We have had crisis teams mobilized since it happened,” Erwin said. “With the little ones, the protocol is not to bring it up unless they ask about it. But, if they do bring it up we need to be able to discuss it in a responsible way. We know of a couple kids who are struggling with it and also a couple of adults who are having a tough time.
“We have great principals and administration and I never have to worry about them following protocol. From that perspective I’m thrilled with the reactions and actions of the administration.”