Archived Story

Area teachers, students return to school after national tragedy

Published 9:00pm Monday, December 17, 2012

Michelle Horvath gave her three small children an extra hug Monday before sending them off to class at Eastside Connections School in Niles.

She said she was a little hesitant to do so after Friday’s tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a lone gunman murdered 20 children and six adults at an elementary school.

“It was tough letting them go today, but I am also very confident in the staff at Eastside,” she said. “I know they’ll take good care of our kids and do the right thing. What happened was just heartbreaking.”

Horvath is a teacher, working her second year as an educator of first grade at Brandywine’s Merritt Elementary School in Niles Charter Township.

Horvath and the rest of the district’s teachers were asked to come to school early Monday and review a plan for addressing the tragedy with their students.

“All those years ago when I was a teacher, I probably would’ve been at a loss myself,” said Brandywine Supt., John Jarpe, “so I thought they’d need some guidance and reassurance themselves.

“Going into a classroom and teaching school on this Monday all across America is one of the hardest things these people will have to do in their career.”

Horvath said she was extra happy to see her students as she greeted them this morning at the door to her classroom.

“I gave them an extra hug and asked them about their weekend, just to gauge what their personality was like,” she said.

Horvath said the majority of students raised their hand when asked who had heard about a tragedy that happened over the weekend. She then asked who felt safe at school.

“Every one of them raised their hands,” Horvath said. “Then we talked about how I would do anything to keep them safe. They were smiling and happy with that answer.”

School officials from Brandywine and Niles school districts are in the middle of reviewing safety procedures at all buildings within each district.

“I think any superintendent and principal in the country is going to be doing that this week,” Jarpe said.

Safety measures vary widely between buildings within each school district in Niles and Brandywine. Some buildings, such as Eastside Connections, require visitors to be buzzed-in. Other buildings leave a door or two unlocked, asking visitors to report to the office upon entering.

“We recognize we can do more, and we are looking to do that,” said Niles Community Schools Supt. Richard Weigel. “Our director of operations is going to come to us within the next few weeks with a plan for securing doors in a better way than we do.”


Niles Community Schools

Supt. Richard Weigel

Note to parents

“The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is a terrible event that has put all of us are in shock and pain.  The children in our schools are our most precious group in our community, and they deserve to be safe when they attend our schools.  Let me assure you that the safety of our children is a priority for all of us, and we will continue to take strong measures to keep every child safe. This includes but is not limited to lockdown, fire and tornado drills. This recent tragedy reminds us to be ever vigilant, and we will build more training for our staff regarding safety procedures in each of our buildings.  All visitors to our buildings are to check in at the office when they arrive. Our staff have been directed to approach any strangers and direct or escort them to the office.  We will be reviewing all of our safety procedures, and we will continue to provide strong safety systems for our children. If you have questions regarding our safety processes, please contact us.”

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