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Lots of hugs on elementary school agenda today

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 17. 2012 10:26AM

MANCHESTER - Today's agenda at Beech Street School is to pull everybody together and assure all 600 students in kindergarten through grade 5 that their school is safe, said Principal Patricia Snow.

Classes were delayed by two hours Monday morning across the city, because of the wintry mix of snow and sleet, but when the day began at 10:05 a.m. the 100-member faculty and staff at Beech Street were prepared to help those students struggling with the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six educators last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"We are going to keep a positive climate because we known that is what we do," said Snow. "It's just to pull everybody together and just get across that we are here, we are safe, we are family and we are going to do what we do best, just hug our kids."

She said a guidance counselor as well as the school psychologist will be available for those children and staff who need their help. Snow said the school consistently practices fire and lockdown drills and going to shelter places, and will continue doing that so children will know what to do in an emergency.

She said a letter will also be going home to parents explaining how they should shelter younger children from media reports about the tragedy as much as possible and how to talk with them should they ask about it.

Superintendent of Schools Tom Brennan on Sunday sent out an email to principals with suggestions, garnered from a conference call among superintendents on Saturday, on what to do when school resumes today.

Among the recommendations were to review current safety protocols and assess level of understanding among staff and children; being vigilant in responding to the reaction of students, staff and parents to the tragic event; meet with staff to discuss the day's expectations and resources available to them and the children; encourage staff to raise their level of visibility within the school (hallways, cafeteria, etc.) as schedule allows.

If a student asks about the tragedy, staff or the parent should stay calm, because children pick up on the feelings of others, and choose a quiet place with few distractions; maintain routines and structure which are reassuring in times of stress; reassure the child he/she is protected and talk about positive actions the child might be able to take; talk about safety measures being taken; talk about the family's/class safety rules and plans; provide facts, in keeping with the child's age and maturity, and give plenty of hugs and attention, even if the child does not show outward signs of distress.

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