Robert Christmann, the interim superindent of Grand Island schools, was glued to the television Friday, trying to learn the details of the shooting, just like millions of other Americans.
Christmann expects this will have as much impact on security at schools across the United States as the 1999 Columbine tragedy did.
“Columbine was a defining moment for public schools. Columbine changed everything,” Christmann said.
“This event today will have as great an impact on public schools as Columbine did, because of the magnitude of it and the age of the students," he said. “It will bring the kinds of massive changes that Columbine brought – but I don’t know what that will mean yet.”
The first thing Hamburg Superintendent Steven Achramovitch did when he heard about the shooting was to remind all of his principals to make sure doors and access to the schools were secure. He told them to monitor everything and be prepared to answer questions from parents.
However, more needs to be learned about how and why this happened, so schools know what they need to do moving forward.
“I think part of what I don’t understand right now is the reasons behind this,” Achramovitch said, as details of the shooting got out Friday afternoon. “I’m sure this will raise some things that we haven’t thought about before, but our first objective is to learn more about this.”
Schools were closed in the Cheektowaga Central School District on Friday for staff-development day, so teachers and administrators didn’t start hearing about the shootings until early afternoon, said Superintendent Dennis Kane.
There likely will be some new measures taken by schools in the aftermath, but the most immediate issue comes Monday, after students have had the weekend to hear about what happened and are asking some tough questions, Kane said.
Cheektowaga will try to have staff and counselors prepared.
“I think the biggest question, and most challenging question, kids will ask is: ‘Can this happen to me?’ Kane said.
Christmann said Grand Island will be planning for Monday, too.
“I think the best person to communicate about this would be their parents,” Christmann said Friday afternoon. “Let’s get them home today and have them talk to their parents.”