Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


December 20, 2012

"Our worst nightmare" shakes Andover schools

Officials reflect on security in wake of shooting

As school buses unloaded at Andover schools this past Monday, a sense of worry and nervousness may have been on the minds of parents and students. Just three days earlier, an event that lasted for just a few minutes in a Newtown, Conn. elementary school left 26 dead, including 20 children.

But once Andover children were inside their schools, the doors locked shut and classes started, a sense of normalcy filled the air.

“I happened to be at West Elementary this morning,” Selectmen Chairman Paul Salafia said Monday night, addressing a three-board meeting. “The environment was actually very normal. The kids were happy.”

Paula Colby-Clements, School Committee chairwoman, said school staff were able to “return to a much-needed routine when, I’m sure, routine was about the furthest thing from their mind.”

Since the shooting rampage first caught national attention Friday morning, memorials and vigils have taken place nationwide to honor those who died Friday. John “Muddy” Waters, head of school at the private Pike School, said he felt “sick to my stomach” when he first heard the news.

“It’s terrifying,” he said. “It’s all of our worst nightmares.”

Paula O’Dea, principal of St. Augustine School, said, “it just brought tears to my eyes, and I couldn’t believe this happened at an elementary school.”

That feeling was shared among public school officials as well.

“In any one time when an event like this happens, we think that those could be our students,” Andover Public Schools Superintendent Marinel McGrath said at a meeting Monday. “They could be our staff. They could be our principals. They could be our community. We just don’t know in this day and age.”

APS leaders, including school principals and administrators, were coming back from attending a meeting in Cambridge when Janet Yedniak, director of social workers, called them to tell them the news.

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