The following message was sent by Needham Superintendent Dan Gutenkast today:
Dear Needham Families:
I am at a loss for words this evening as I write to express both grief and outrage over the tragic and senseless loss of innocent children and the adults who cared for them in . Like you, I am in shock over this abominable crime, especially knowing it occurred during what should be a peaceful, joyful, and holy season for so many of our families.
Needham's principals and I met late this afternoon to check in with one another and discuss appropriate plans for the return of students to classes next Monday morning and throughout the week. I would like to share the following information:
- The principals will meet with their entire faculty and staff early on Monday morning and before students arrive to discuss how to be prepared for students. Each teacher will receive information and a script about what to do and/or say in the event a student raises a concern or questions about the tragedy.
- Guidance counselors, nurses, and others will be available and accessible in each building to respond to children's concerns and needs as necessary and appropriate.
- The principals will email parents over the next few days and as necessary to share information and updates about the school's response and any concerns.
- The principals suggest the following document, entitled A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope, may provide parents and all caring adults with some ideas and age appropriate responses to today's events: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx
Finally, let me take this opportunity to reassure parents that we take school safety and security very seriously in the Needham Public Schools. Of course we can never guarantee that nothing would ever happen in one of our schools or in the community. What we can do is be planful, vigilant, and proactive, particularly when it comes to our children's safety. We review, plan, and practice emergency responses and protocols with students and staff throughout the year. We collaborate closely with the Needham Police and other public safety and health officials to review plans and procedures to maximize school safety and security. The principals know that attending to student and school safety is their first and most important priority.
Over the next several days and many months to come, the heartwrenching details and pictures will emerge as all of us try and wrap our heads around and comprehend the depths of this terror. For now all we can do is pray for the victims, their families, and the parents who are grieving tonight over the loss of a beautiful little boy or girl.
Tonight let's also make sure we hug and kiss our own children and reassure them they are safe and that we love them.
Superintendent of Schools