It is a paradox of human relations that the ones we hold closest to our hearts thrive when we loosen our grip. Given what we know about child development and education, it is easy for parents to see the sense of it. But Tuesday morning, as children headed out to the bus stops, this small “letting go” for the coming school year may have, for many, proved to be a most difficult moment of surrender. Newtown is no longer a town where people can find consolation by telling themselves that things always turn out for the best. That kind of naïveté requires a level of trust in fate that just doesn’t exist in this place anymore.
What Newtown has instead are great wellsprings of consolation that have risen up between people bound together in shared experience, mutual concern, and common purpose. And as children head off to school for another year, there is no purpose more important to this community than their safe and successful education. The connections forged by the people and institutions of this community in the past eight months have positioned Newtown and its schoolchildren for one of the safest and most successful school years on record.
Keeping these essential community connections open and vital will require a free flow of information, in both directions, between schools and parents. Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed got things started on the right foot late last week with a extensive memo to parents and guardians about the evolving security status of Newtown’s schools, including new state guidelines and mandates, local security assessments and plans, school surveillance, and building “hardening” measures. Included in his discussion of these issues were assurances that drills and precautionary “lock-ins” at the schools would be implemented in ways that would not unnecessarily raise anxiety levels of children or their parents. He also asked for parents’ cooperation and partnership in implementing security protocols.
To keep the conversation going, Dr Reed has invited parents to a meeting on September 26 at 7 pm in the Reed School cafetorium where he will be joined by Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe to answer parents’ questions. We expect there will be plenty of questions and, we hope, as many answers. For a town that no longer trusts in fate, solid information is a good foundation on which to start building again.