Tuscumbia Schools Superintendent Mary Kate Smith heard the news of Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut while she was watching the play rehearsal of her own district’s young elementary students.
“We were watching the G.W. Trenholm children practicing for their program when all this was unfolding and we were just stunned, speechless,” she said Friday. “This kind of thing is unimaginable.”
Latest reports now say 20 students died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which is about 60 miles northeast of New York City. The gunman blasted his way through the building as young students cowered helplessly in classrooms while their teachers and classmates were shot.
The attack, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
The gunman killed himself and another person was found dead at a second scene, leading to a total toll of 28, authorities said.
Among issues forced to the forefront as a result of the shooting are school safety and what measures are in place to prevent hostile visitors for entering a school building.
The Tuscumbia system uses a buzzer entry system in all schools except the high school.
Friday’s events have educators re-evaluating their safety practices.
“We’re certainly taking a long hard look at how well we protect our students,” Smith said. “We’ll be looking at what safety measures we took five years (ago) that need to be enhanced. We have good camera systems in place, too, but we’ve got to make sure we’re doing enough to keep these babies safe.”
Cherokee Elementary School Principal Pam Worsham said there’s constant vigilance among her faculty and staff regarding student safety. In fact, after teachers got word Friday of the shooting in Connecticut, they started coming to Worsham to talk about their own schools practices and how to best assure the children’s safety.
Worsham said the events weighed heavily on the minds and hearts of her employees. The school has a door buzzer opening system.
“As a faculty and staff we’re going to be talking about this and how we can look for red flags,” Worsham said. “At this point, we just have to pray, and pray hard, for their safety and ours. We certainly have to be very aware of our surroundings all the time. This news is simply unbelievable.”
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at lisa.singleton-rickman@timesDaily.com.