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U46 issues midweek update about safety

Updated: January 21, 2013 3:51PM

ELGIN — School District U46 Superintendent Jose Torres said he looked at the images of wakes and funerals for the 6- and 7-year-old victims of the shooting Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He also looked into the faces of 6- and 7-year-old students in two of the elementary schools in U46.

And he wept, he said in a message Wednesday night to district staff, parents and community members.

“But, then I dried up my eyes (and) rolled up my sleeves,” Torres said.

The message was the third from the superintendent since the shootings occurred last week, something U46 Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt commended Wednesday.

“This incident caused I think anxiety and trauma for all of us — all of us with children and all of us who work at schools and all of us who send our children to school,” Heiderscheidt said.

“You can never overcommunicate, especially when people are in a trauma mindset, when they’re worried. Real or not, anxiety is real.”

In his midweek message, Torres said he had met with all district administrators Monday to clarify plans for the week and encourage them to contact him directly with any concerns about safety measures in their schools. He also re-emphasized the district’s protocols for visitor check-in and entry into schools to staff, its SAFE program and park district partners, he said.

He also immediately responded to “a couple of schools” that requested additional assistance for adult supervision or assistance in handling staff, student or parent concerns, he said. And he responded to emails and phone calls from parents seeking more information about district safety procedures.

Overall, Heiderscheidt said, “Things are calm in schools.”

“Students are learning. Teachers are teaching. Our efforts are to make sure that we quietly get through this week and review all of the concerns expressed by anybody who has expressed concerns about security issues,” Heiderscheidt said.

The safety coordinator said the district has investigated two rumors this week, both at the high school level and related not to the school shooting last Friday but to the supposed Mayan-predicted apocalypse this Friday. It quickly traced those rumors to their source — namely, he said, “Kids are being kids. Teens are being teens.”

“By no means do I want to give any more attention to these things than needed,” he said.

But, Heiderscheidt said, the district investigates and takes seriously all rumors.

Most of the communication that administrators have received this week has come from parents with questions about the district’s security procedures, he said. Mostly, it has been collecting information, collecting perspectives, collecting what people are thinking, he said.

“The mission is to maintain what we have because what we have is a solid plan and get through this week and take all this information and work with it moving forward,” he said.

Torres has planned an additional update on district safety Friday, he said in his message Monday.

And he said Wednesday, “We’re hopeful that tomorrow and Friday will also be uneventful and that we will go into our winter recess in peace and joy.”

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