SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 18, 2012

North Shore schools react to tragedy: Are we ready?

On the first school day after more than two dozen children and staff were shot to death at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., teaching went on at schools across the North Shore — but with subtle and sometimes more noticeable differences.

Flags outside schools in Salem and elsewhere were at half-staff.

Marked and unmarked police cars were parked outside schools in Peabody, Ipswich and Beverly at the start and end of the school day.

Staff at one school met with students to pray.

“We tried to assure the students that we were here to take care of them, and that God is always here to protect them,” said Maureen Kelleher, principal of St. John the Baptist, a 460-student, K-8 Catholic school in Peabody.

Like the Columbine shooting more than a decade ago, the tragedy Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School has put school systems and police departments on alert: If it happened there, it could happen here.

Many schools sent out reassuring emails to parents. Administrators contacted staff over the weekend to schedule meetings to review emergency procedures. Some even convened over the weekend.

“We had an online meeting with administrators and staff on Saturday,” said Peabody Superintendent Joseph Mastrocola.

Police departments stopped by schools yesterday or scheduled sit-downs this week.

“I was on the phone with the chief (Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker) on Saturday,” said Stephen Russell, superintendent of schools in Salem.

Russell, Tucker, the school resource police officer and others met yesterday to review lock-down and other emergency procedures.

Everywhere, school superintendents and police chiefs asked the same questions: Are we prepared for the worst? Are we doing enough?

“We do have different types of protocol in place depending on what the issue is,” said Beverly Superintendent Marie Galinski. “Sometimes it might be a lock-down, sometimes a safe room...”

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