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Schools’ advice: Keep calm and carry on

EsmeraldSolis an assistant JohnsElementary School far right helps students Brian Rodriguez 9 from Aurorcenter top Brian Pug9 from Aurortop right

Esmeralda Solis, an assistant at Johnson Elementary School, far right, helps students, Brian Rodriguez, 9 from Aurora, center top, Brian Puga, 9 from Aurora, top right, and Takayla Bankhead, 10 from Aurora, bottom left, as they study and work on homework after school at Johnson Elementary School in Aurora on Monday, December 17, 2012. Experts say the best thing schools can do is provide help for the children who need it as well as keeping their schedules as normal as possible. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Talking to kids about tragedy

Information on talking to children about violence is available from the National Association of School Psychologists,

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Updated: January 19, 2013 6:16AM

Perhaps the strangest thing about school Monday morning was just how normal it seemed.

“As far as the kids, they’ve been very quiet,” said Hinckley-Big Rock Superintendent Pete Pasteris. “I’ve walked around buildings, met with principals and teachers, and they’ve said the kids haven’t said anything. Even in the high school cafeteria, the kids aren’t talking about it.”

Pasteris said that he hopes the quiet is an indication that parents talked to their children over the weekend about Friday morning’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut — that students and their families may not have made sense of the tragedy, but they’re moving on.

In schools around the Fox Valley, administrators said their discussions about the shooting that took the lives of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, many of them just kindergartners, depended on students’ ages.

Students at Newark Community High School held a moment of silence Monday morning for the students and staff of Sandy Hook. Later this week, the students plan to wear green and white, Sandy Hook’s school colors, in their honor, according to Superintendent Amy Smith.

But younger children won’t see or hear discussion of the incident in school.

Instead, administrators have tried to spread information to parents about age-appropriate discussions with children.

According to information provided by the National Association of School Psychologists, which Fox Valley school districts circulated to parents over the weekend, parents should focus on reassuring their young children that they and their schools are safe, and should maintain normal routines with their students of all ages.

School administrators said that, besides flags lowered to half-staff, the school day went on as usual.

“I think everyone’s just remaining calm,” Pasteris said.

Security reviews

Meanwhile, superintendents said they were using Monday to review security protocols and lock-down procedures.

“People around the country and around the community are on edge,” said Kristine Liptrot, spokesman for the Oswego School District, where administrators and police have been tracing back student rumors of Mayan apocalypse-related violence circulating since late last week in the high schools.

“As we do with any school tragedy that occurs, after all the facts are in, we compare that with our current crisis plan and do a thorough review to make sure there isn’t anything we could tweak,” Liptrot said.

Other superintendents said they have also been meeting with police, encouraging parents to ask questions of their school principals and reviewing their crisis plans.

“We do drills all the time,” said Pasteris. “You never can be 100 percent prepared for everything that can happen, but you try.”

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