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Local schools react to the tragedy in Connecticut

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Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 8:13 am, Tue Dec 18, 2012.

Oak View Union School District in Acampo

Superintendent Beverly Boone said nothing was different on Monday.

Additionally, student attendance was not down on Monday, and there was no change in the number of students being checked out early Friday.

She was unaware if the school's K-8 students were asking any questions about the tragedy. Student counseling has not been sought.

Century Christian School

Principal John Higgins said an assembly was held for firstthrough fourth-graders. He told them what a great job they did during a lockdown drill on Thursday, the day before the shootings in Connecticut.

Students were told that if they are afraid, they can approach any teacher or administrator. They were also instructed to report any adult who isn't wearing a name tag to a teacher or the school office.

"Anyone without a name tag shouldn't be here," Higgins said.

Students from fifth through eighth grades talked to Century Assembly Pastor Mark Guerrero, since older students have iPads, and some talked about the shootings with their friends, Higgins said.

Jim Elliot Christian High School

"The only way to explain it is there is such a thing as evil," Principal David Couchman said.

"We are wide open," Couchman said. "If somebody wanted to walk into the mall, what are you going to do about that? You can only do what you can do short of making the place a prison. We're not going to make the school a prison; we're not going to put barbed wire around it."

He's not sure that installing a chain-link fence would be effective since an armed person could jump over it.

"The guy who's going to (commit acts of violence) isn't going to obey the rules and check into the office," Couchman said.

Lawrence Elementary School

Principal Carlos Villafana said the school was focusing on letting parents know that safety is the top priority.

"We are reflecting on what we can do we can do differently at our site and things that need to improve and also reminding ourselves that we need to maintain a good open dialogue with our students should they have any questions and make sure our answers are age appropriate," Villafana said.

Lockeford Elementary School

The K-8 students were led in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom, and the school held a moment of silence for victims.

Because the students' ages vary, teachers decided how to talk to students and address questions, Principal Virginia Anderson said.

"It's kind of hard to have a blanket statement because it's kind of what each kid might have heard and the background of where they come from, and what parents said at home," she said.

About a week ago, the school had an intruder on campus drill. Teachers and staff will discuss the school's safety plan at their staff meeting on Wednesday, and share any ideas on how to make the school even safer.

Lodi Academy

Principal Harley Peterson said campus safety will be discussed by the school's finance committee on Thursday night and by the board of trustees in January.

"It's definitely a high concern for us," Peterson said. "The rules are you're supposed to go to the office, but we have a wide open school."

Peterson said that there has never been a mass shooting on an Adventist school campus, though one student attacked a teacher at a Seventh-day Adventist school in Tennessee.

Nevertheless, more and more Adventist campuses are fenced in now. The Lodi Academy board will discuss whether to install fencing, Peterson said.

Reese Elementary School

Instead of doing a campuswide assembly, Principal Gary O'Dell said he wanted teachers to talk to their classes individually because that's where students are comfortable answering questions.

At the staff meeting Monday, O'Dell said they discussed ways to make the campus safer, like changing the route teachers use to walk their kids to the lunch room.

"We are considering changes we would need to make to the physical environment, and looking at possible ways to keep kids protected even more so than we already do," O'Dell said.

St. Peter Lutheran School

Principal Anna Hu said that school safety is an ongoing activity, and they have drills on a regular basis.

Hu said she would rather discuss school safety with the News-Sentinel in person rather than on the phone.

"This is part of security, too," she told a News-Sentinel reporter. "I don't know who you are."

According to the school's website, St. Peter fingerprints all faculty, staff, coaches and people who spend time with students, and rehearse a detailed crisis plan that includes lockdown procedures in the event of an earthquake, fire or intruder on campus.

Marengo Ranch and River Oaks elementary schools

Two Galt schools reported an increase in the number of students absent Monday. At Marengo Ranch there were 38 fewer students than average, and 39 more were absent at River Oaks.

Jennifer Porter, Marengo Ranch principal, said that this absence reflects twice the number of students typically absent.

At McCaffrey Middle School, students were told to enter the school office through the back or side door. One class is writing letters to the families of victims.

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