Waconia area schools react to shooting

In response to the school shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Friday, Dec. 14, school officials in Waconia, both public and parochial, issued statements that were sent to the parents of their students.
The statements from Waconia Public Schools (sent on Sunday, Dec. 16) and St. Joseph’s Catholic School (sent on Friday, Dec. 14), and Trinity Lutheran School  (sent Monday, Dec. 17) are included here.

Waconia Public Schools
“I share with you my sadness and horror at the events in the Connecticut classroom last Friday. I know that events like this strike fear into our hearts, as we think about our own children.
The Waconia School District takes the safety and security of our students very seriously. We conduct regular lock-down drills, and instruct the students how to respond during an intruder incident. Our drills and all of our security measures are coordinated with the Carver County police, so that we provide maximum safety. Our district has invested in security systems, including cameras and other devices that provide information about our buildings at all times.
During this difficult time, we would ask you to talk with your children as is appropriate for their age. Please focus on the assurances that our school leaders will always work to keep them safe.
Tomorrow, we will have staff available to talk with students if they would like to talk about the matter. At the elementary level, we would prefer to respond to questions, rather than introduce the topic. It may be wise for you to limit the discussions in your home, and to avoid TV coverage of the details of the shootings.
Our principals and district administration are available to answer questions and listen to your concerns.
Please keep the families of these children and staff in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”

Dr. Nancy Rajanen
Superintendent of Schools

Trinity Lutheran School
“Trinity Lutheran School takes the safety and security of students and staff very seriously. An emergency plan is in place that includes regular drills which instruct teachers and students how to respond to the situation. For example, we have conducted three lock down drills already this year.
We continue to cooperate with the Carver County Sheriff’s department in providing a copy of our emergency plan and access to our campus so they are familiar with our building layout. In addition, last spring, we installed security cameras throughout the building to help monitor activity.
In the aftermath of the devastating events in Connecticut, we encourage you to talk with your children in an age appropriate manner. Please reassure them that safety is one of our school’s highest priorities.
This morning, our teachers met to discuss how to respond to questions the children may have. Our preference is to respond to questions rather than introduce the topic. We plan to maintain existing daily routines and procedures while assuring our children they are safe. Staff is available to talk with students and parents, if they would like.
Our teachers and staff prayed not only for the families of the victims and the community, but for our children, our school, and schools everywhere. The most significant thing we can do for our children is reassure them of God’s great love for them. We do not mourn as those without hope, but as people who have hope and are saved through the resurrection of Jesus.
Please continue to pray for the families affected by this tragedy.
As always, I’m available to answer any questions you may have.”

Randy Ash
St. Joseph’s Catholic School
“By now you may have heard of the recent school tragedy in Connecticut, and I felt it was important to speak on behalf of our staff and myself. Please pray with us for all those who have been affected by this devastating event.
In times of tragedy we reach out to God to provide us with comfort and peace. You send your children to us, each and every day, to receive an education steeped in the traditions of the Catholic faith. These are the times we need to count on our faith to help us.
I want to assure you that we have comprehensive emergency procedures and trainings in place to keep your children safe. We do advance preparations with the students for emergency situations. We conduct lockdown drills five times a year to ensure our students know what to do when they hear the drill. Our reception desk is in view of our entrances. Those not in view are locked. I have been in contact with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office to review our existing policies and procedures and will institute any new recommendations. Please know that we work daily to keep your children safe. It is important to remember that acts of serious violence in schools are extremely rare. School is one of the safest places for children. This was an isolated incident far away from our local schools, but the news is nonetheless troubling.
I want to share with you some tips from the National Association of School Psychologists (www.nasponline.org) for helping children cope with news such as this. Be mindful of how you react and talk about this news with others when your children are around. Children look to the adults they love for cues on how they should behave and react.
If your child(ren) hears this news and asks questions or seems troubled by it, here are suggestions on how you can respond:
1. Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them and reassure them everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what has happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.
2. Make time to talk with your children. Remember if you do not talk to your children about this incident someone else will. Take some time and determine what you wish to say.
3. Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many children will want actual physical contact. Give plenty of hugs. Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.
4. Limit your child’s television viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time; then turn the set off. Don’t sit mesmerized re-watching the same events over and over again.
5. Maintain a ‘normal’ routine. To the extent possible stick to your family’s normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., but don’t be inflexible. Children may have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.
6. Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed. These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in. Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.
7. Safeguard your children’s physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on children as well as adults. Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
8. Prayer:  Pray for the victims and their families. It may be a good time to take your children to church, write a poem, or draw a picture to help your child express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the victims and their families.
If you have concerns about your child’s reaction to this news, please contact our teachers, counselors, or myself.”

Jeff Lenzmeier