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Shootings stir worry in Colorado schools

We care about your safety, and we want to help you and your family cope.

That was the tenor of email blasts that many Colorado school districts sent to families Friday after learning that a gunman had shot and killed nearly 30 people – many of them children – at a Connecticut elementary school. Some schools also beefed up campus security.

News of the tragedy was bound to frighten children and worry parents – especially coming only months after the murder of 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater.

“Although this is an isolated event that happened far away from Aurora Public Schools, news of this nature – especially in light of the summer tragedy in our city – may be disturbing for students and families,” read Aurora Public Schools’ statement. “If your children express concern, please reassure them that they are safe.”

Boulder Valley’s message struck a similar tone, also referencing a recent tragedy nearby: the murder of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway after she was abducted on her way to school in Westminster.

“The news of this morning’s shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut can be extremely unsettling for both children and parents as we may recall from a local tragedy this past fall,” read part of an email sent to families with children in Boulder Valley Schools.

Some school leaders, such as Dougco’s Superintendent Liz Fagen, sent notes to school staff.

“This horrifying event impacts all of us who have children and/or who care for children each day in our schools,” she wrote. “Frankly, it leaves me brokenhearted and sick to my stomach.”

Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis, who was principal when 15 people were killed at his school, including the two student shooters, had a similar reaction.

“It just takes me back to what we felt on April 20, 1999,” he said. “Just emotionally anyone alive during that time or in schools during that time … it just takes us back to that horrific day.” (View video of DeAngelis statement here.)

Districts reinforce safety measures

Districts offered tips on how to talk to children when a tragic event happens. And they offered the support of counseling services for students, staff and families. They also reminded the community of their desire to keep students and staff safe.

The message to Colorado Springs District 11 families also emphasized the safety measures the district has in place.

“Please know that our top priority in District 11 is student and staff safety,” it read. “As you know, our schools are locked during school hours and everyone entering must check in at the main office of all D11 schools. We have district security that routinely walk the grounds of all of our schools.”

The Cherry Creek district put all its schools “on a heightened level of supervision” Friday.

“You will notice an increased and visible police presence in your neighborhoods and community schools,” reads the note featured prominently on top of the district’s website.

The reason for the increased police presence is to “have a visible deterrence for a potential or perceived criminal act” and “to continue to foster and perpetuate an environment where our children, teachers, administrators, and other community members feel safe, specifically while driving to and from schools and while at school.” District officials made it clear that no credible threat had been received.

As a final note, the district asked parents to limit children’s exposure to TV coverage and social media posts about the mass shooting.

Aurora also beefed up police presence at schools and reminded parents of its numerous school security measures, including lockdown and evacuation plans and drills, strong visitor monitoring, security cameras, participation in emergency drills with other agencies and its system for communicating with parents.

And, the Jeffco Public Schools offered words of sympathy to those families suffering in Connecticut:

We join the rest of the country in offering our deepest sympathy to the families who have lost their precious children.

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