Three days ago, 26 educators and young students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were killed in a tragedy that has left parents and children across the country wondering, "what if it happened to us?"
Bedford Superintendent Timothy Mayes says words cannot describe the horror and sadness felt among he and staff in SAU 25, but noted that the district has a plethora of protocols in place to prevent and, if necessary, mitigate harm done to Bedford students should an intruder enter a Bedford school.
"We are prepared to conduct proactive lock downs and secure, in place, students in all our schools to protect kids in case there is an intruder," said Mayes. "All our doors are locked once the school day starts, but as you can see, even that didn't prevent this guy from getting into that building (in Newtown)."
Teachers, he added, are taught to lock all doors, get students to a safe spot in the classroom and pull shades on all this windows should a threat be detected.
In addition, each of Bedford's schools is equipped with panic buttons in a number of different locations in the school offices and principal's office, which immediately alert Bedford Police to a crisis.
While students are being protected within the schools, district officials have the technology to quickly notify parents should their children be placed in danger.
The district uses Alert Now, a mass-communication system, which luckily has only had to be used in instances of inclement weather, said Mayes, who also noted schools within SAU 25 have conducted drills to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Last year, in fact, Memorial Elementary School practiced a drill in which educators evacuated students to an off-site location before returning them to the school.
Bedford Police Chief John Bryfonski said Friday that his department will make "appropriate adjustments' to its patrol posture concerning Bedford schools, and once all the information is released about the events that took place Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mayes said he and district educators will work with police to consider all possible safety improvements in Bedford, though he added that there are no immediate plans to make changes to the district's current procedures.
"I think what we've got to do is wait and work things out once we know all the facts and exactly what happened," said Mayes. "We may need a few weeks or months time until that time, but hopefully we'll be able to collect some information that can help us going forward."
This week, however, Mayes says the concentration is on comforting students and parents and instilling a feeling of comfort in their security within the confines of Bedford schools.
"The most important thing we're going to try to do in next five days is reassure children and parents that, for the most part, schools are a very safe place and ... we're going to make a concerted effort to remind kids of that," said Mayes. "We're going to try as best as possible to get into a normal routine and if we see kids struggling with what happened, we're going to try to identify them and get in touch with their parents. We're going to be very people-oriented over the next five days."
And while educators will do everything in their power to help Bedford students, Mayes was quick to note that the events of Friday will be awfully difficult to forget.
"Our hearts go out to the families and the kids in Newtown following this horrible event," he continued. "We're thinking about them everyday and will be thinking of them for a number of weeks and probably much longer going forward."