Hudson -- Less than 48 hours after a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults, the Hudson City School District began reassuring parents that student and staff safety is the "No. 1 priority" in Hudson schools.
"It is impossible as parents and educators to do anything but grieve and pray for the families at this time," the district said in a Dec. 14 email alert. "On Monday [Dec. 17], when your children and our staff return to school, safety will continue to be our No. 1 priority."
The district also made counselors available for students, families and staff, as needed.
As news of Dec. 14 shooting was released to the public, both the district and the Hudson Police Department began taking actions to protect Hudson students from any possible threats, while at the same time expressing their sympathy for the victims and families.
"Today's events are tragic and our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Newton, Conn., community,"
Hudson Schools Assistant Superintendent Phil Herman said Dec. 14.
When the news broke, administrators notified each building principal to make sure they were aware of what occurred, Herman said.
"[We] reminded them to check all entrances to insure they were secure, and told them to remind staff that we must be vigilant in following our procedures for building visitors," Herman said. "Additionally, Superintendent Steve Farnsworth contacted Hudson Police Chief Robbins to request additional police presence around our buildings today and in the days ahead."
Robbins said his first thoughts, after hearing of the shooting was, "'We live in a scary world,' followed by, 'What kind of person goes into a school and shoots defenseless elementary aged kids?'"
When a tragedy like the shooting is reported, Hudson Police do not have an automatic procedure that is followed, Robbins said.
"We do, however, operate on a heightened awareness level," Robbins said Dec. 14. "I went out today in a cruiser with the patrol officers and we saturated the schools, both roaming and stationary patrol."
Two other officers usually in the department offices were also out on patrol, Robbins said.
Robbins hopes a deterrent to violence at the middle and high schools is the presence of the department's juvenile officer.
"We think that with our juvenile officer Mike Burchard being at the schools, there is a bit of deterrent factor," he said. "Ideally, a uniformed police officer would be the best if manpower and monetary limitations were not an issue."
However, if some sort of school violence takes place in Hudson, the police department has a response plan in place.
Officers will "stop the killing as quickly as possible, by killing the shooter," Robbins said.
"It is not a time to form a perimeter and initiate discussion," the chief added.
Hudson Police and the district have worked together to develop a security plan which works best for both, Robbins said.
"But at the end of the day, they [the district] are ultimately responsible, and I believe have been proactive in seeking and implementing security measures," Robbins said.
School officials review both safety and security procedures on a regular basis, Herman said. Additional safety procedures were implemented in the fall.
"Any school shooting causes us to review school safety plans to determine if any procedures need to be modified," Herman, said. "Each of our buildings practice lock-down drills on a regular basis in a way that is age appropriate for our students."
The district also encourages students and staff to "say something if you see or hear something," as a means to help preserve school safety, according Herman.
"Parents and students are essential partners with us to help keep our students safe by using our Safe Schools Help Line to report concerns," he said.
The help line number is 800-418-6423 ext. 359. The help line website is www.safeschoolhelpline.com.
In the email alert, the district assured parents that it has "worked to implement more and more security measures to provide a safe learning environment."
Some of the measures include meeting with national safety experts, conducting safety drills, lock-down drills and activating a new district-wide system for emergency alerts within the buildings.
" We don't have all the answers, but we are committed to seeking expert advice and implementing programs that will help keep our schools safe," the alert stated. "We will need your continued support and will ask for your input as we continue to evaluate our school safety plans."
The safety measures have helped make the schools "more secure than they have ever been," Robbins said.
Arriving home the night of the shooting, Herman gave his children a few more hugs than usual, he said.
However, he knew with the hugs "there were some tough conversations ahead," he added.