The horrific shooting that claimed the lives of 20 elementary school children and six adults in Connecticut on Friday continues to affect communities near and far, including New Providence.
On Monday, New Providence School District administrators and faculty monitored students carefully while reassuring parents of the districts’ safety procedures. At the same time, borough officials began looking for a way to symbolically remember the lives lost in this unspeakable tragedy.
New Providence Schools
Guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers are on staff throughout the district, said Superintendent David Miceli, and with any tragedy, students always have the opportunity to meet with any of them.
Miceli and district principals received a lot of feedback from parents on Monday about how they are handling this situation with their own children. Miceli said some families have opted to not expose their children to the shooting at all, while other families are discussing it. Therefore, the district will not formally discuss the shooting within any district schools.
“We’ve been trying to handle it on an individual basis if there are students out there that need that level of support and have questions, and deal with it in an age appropriate fashion,” Miceli said.
The district has “Emergency Management Plans” that have been in place for many years with assistance from the New Providence Police Department. Those plans detail what the district, staff and students need to do in the event of an emergency within any of the district buildings.
“Probably the past eight or nine years, there’s been much more specificity with respect to active school shooters, emergency drills with respect to bombs in place. Events of the past decade have driven us, as well as I’m sure all schools across the country, to be more specific and have very specific plans related to a whole host of emergencies or crises that could take place and they vary in terms of what we would do,” Miceli explained. “We work collaboratively with our police department and we’ve been doing that for many years.”
School district faculty and administration, and the police department have had professional development with respect to emergency management plans and specific drills, Miceli said. The district currently drills on a monthly basis with the police department, which is a requirement set forth by the New Jersey Department of Education.
“That was put in place a couple years ago but we had been proactive in doing that prior to even the requirement with the Department of Education. We had set forth very specific plans for active shooters and the like, a school bomb, for many years now and have drilled with the police department on an active basis,” Miceli explained. “As a result of the drills that we have done for many years with the police department and currently under the Department of Education requirement, we’re constantly tweaking how we handle things based on the outcomes of those drills. We have modified those plans regularly. [We] have identified particular locations in each of our buildings that are more complex, and have tried to hone in on those particular areas and how to handle them in a more affective fashion.”
Throughout this past weekend, Miceli said he spoke with New Providence Police Chief Anthony Buccelli and Deputy Chief Scott Torre about sitting down to continue the emergency management dialogue for the district.
Events such as the Newtown shooting may prompt school districts across the country to take another look at safety plans and procedures. But Miceli said that conversation between the New Providence School District and New Providence Police Department is ongoing.
“It’s not as if we sit and have this conversation once a year. It’s something that’s fluid as a result of the monthly drills,” Miceli said. “There are multiple conversations during the course of the year and during the summer. We update the plan on an annual basis with respect to all the changes and/or things that we’ve learned as a result of the drills.”
New Providence Community
As the New Providence Council meeting convened Monday night, Mayor J. Brooke Hern asked those in attendance to share a moment of silence in remembrance of the lives lost in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
During his report at the meeting, Borough Administrator Doug Marvin said the borough is looking for a way to come together, as a community, to symbolically remember the victims of the shooting.
Marvin said he received an email from the town administrator in Howell, NJ on Monday, which outlined Howell’s plans to shut off all town holiday lights on Wednesday, Dec. 19 as a way of sharing the darkness with Newtown community members. Marvin said Howell plans to send an email to its community members, asking everyone to join in the “symbolic display of sympathy” by leaving all holiday décor off on Wednesday.
Marvin said this could be an option for the borough to pursue. However, some council members weren’t on board with mirroring Howell’s plans in New Providence.
“It just seems odd to me that in this moment of darkness, we would want to be sending a message of darkness,” said Council President Michael Gennaro. “It seems the lights would be more appropriate than anything else.”
Councilman Bob Robinson agreed, saying a reflective moment of silence, which the mayor did at the beginning of the meeting, would do more than turning off all holiday lights for one night.
Councilman Alan Lesnewich said turning off the lights does seem “kind of backwards,” but maybe it would be a way to share with the residents of Newtown, CT.
Then, Councilman Armand Galluccio suggested the borough hold a short candlelight vigil at Centennial Park for residents to attend to remember the shooting victims.
“I’d rather have something of lightness instead of darkness. It was such a dark day in our history on Friday and to me, to try show our support with more darkness, I’d like to have something with light to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel and some hope hopefully out there,” Gallucco said.
As of Monday night, the borough hasn't set up any plans for a candlelight vigil yet.