Editor's note: The following is the first in a series of articles reporting on local reaction to the tragic school shooting in Connecticut Dec. 14.
In the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, local school officials are revisiting their safety policies and more closely watching their children.
"I think we learned that when other terrorist attacks occurred, that when someone is willing to die to kill others, there is little to do to stop them," Dr. James Phares, the current superintendent of Randolph County Schools who has been chosen to serve as the state superintendent of schools, said this week.
Fortunately, Phares said, the West Virginia State Board of Education has a good plan in place. Phares will take over responsibilities as state superintendent of schools beginning Jan. 2.
"Our people know what to do in time of crisis because of training," Phares said. "What we are not as good at is crisis prevention. We need to beef up that end of the process."
In Randolph County, Phares said the county is taking steps to help with the process.
"The schools need reminded of the resources they have," Phares said. "Students need to be reassured that they are safe, and we need to raise everyone's awareness."
Phares said contact has been made locally with community outreach programs.
"We are going to use motivational speakers to help others recognize with early notification," Phares said. "We also need to help students make productive choices and to report anything suspicious."
- Barbour County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Super said, following the shooting, Barbour County schools officials reviewed their safety plan and asked educators to be watchful.
"I sent out an email to all of our principals to be more vigilant in their buildings," he said. "Coming after a tragedy, I wanted our folks to be more attentive to their kids."
Super said all the schools in Barbour County are equipped with electric doors to monitor who is accessing the building.
"We require folks to come to the main office and sign in," Super said. "We do not allow them to wander the halls."
He said in some of the buildings it is more difficult because the main doors do not lead directly to the office, but the school system's security plans will be reviewed.
"We are looking at our plan," Super said. "We will be meeting with our safety committee this week."
- Dr. Eddie Campbell, superintendent of Tucker County schools, said the Newtown, Conn. incident was jarring for everyone.
"The situation is shocking for all of us in the education community," he said. "It brings to light the fears we have (for our children)."
Despite the shock, his assessment of the situation is one that's focused on the safety of all children in Tucker County.
Campbell said the shooting makes everyone aware of the importance of a good crisis plan.
"We do have a county crisis plan," Campbell said."We feel like it's a good plan."
It was developed with RESA-7, a statewide group that helps develop educational programs, and county officials, Campbell said.
He also mentioned that the Department of Homeland Security visited the county in 2011 and worked with the board to improve the crisis plan.
Campbell said emergencies of all types are covered in the plan. Teachers and staff practice them regularly, and Campbell said the county is prepared for anything that comes its way.
"We are as prepared as we possibly can be," he said.
Campbell recommended diligence on the part of schools and parents.
"(The schools) need to continue to be diligent and put safety at the forefront," he said.
He suggested parents' younger children in kindergarten, first and second grade be walked to the bus stop in the morning and met there after school is out.
"We see, too often, younger kids walking a few blocks home," he said.
He also said parents should talk to their children about possible dangers in school and at home.
Overall, Campbell was positive about safety for county children.
"We don't need to be afraid of anything," he said, "but we need to be aware."
Campbell said the county crisis plan is available at all county school and in the Board of Education office. They are public documents.
Comments and concerns can be directed to the Board office at (304) 478-2771.
Contributing to this article were staff writers Anthony Gaynor, Casey Houser and Melissa Toothman.