School districts throughout metro Atlanta are taking extra precautions to assure parents that classrooms are safe after Friday's fatal shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., left 20 children dead, and parents across the nation struggled to reassure nervous youngsters.
As part of an emergency plan developed years ago, Gwinnett County will assign an officer to each of the county's 102 public schools in addition to the school resource officers.
"In light of what happened in Newtown, Conn., people want to feel safe, their kids want to feel safe. This is one step that Gwinnett police take to ensure that safety," Sgt. Brian Doan of the Gwinnett County Police Department said.
Channel 2’s Ross Cavitt was in Cobb County, where new troopers assigned to schools fanned out across the area and planned for the worst. Cavitt spoke to Trooper Johnny Ensley, who got his first look at Marietta’s Lockheed Elementary School on Monday.
“This action not only helps us become more aware of the location of every school, but it also helps the faculty and staff of the school to become more familiar with us,” Ensley told Cavitt.
Channel 2’s Erica Byfield went on a patrol with DeKalb School Resource Officer John Pierce around Sequoyah Middle School, and nearby Cary Reynolds Elementary School. He said he realized Friday things would be different Monday, in the wake of the shooting.
“We are going to make sure we take all of the necessary steps and precautions to keep our 99,000 kids safe,” DeKalb School spokeswoman Lillian Govus said.
Earlier this fall, Channel 2 reported officials found five guns at various schools within a month. While leaders said they didn't do anything specifically on Monday to search for guns, they stressed student security is and will always be a priority.
All of DeKalb's schools have at least 32 surveillance cameras, and require a key card to open any exterior doors. There will be extra security at the county's schools for at least the next few days.
Counselors were on hand at Fulton County Schools as students returned to school Monday. At Lake Forrest Elementary School in Sandy Springs, the school’s principal said he wants students to feel at ease, but counselors can address any questions.
“I was on announcements this morning welcoming students like I always do, reminding them that sometimes bad things happen in the world, and we don't want to live in fear," Principal Harvey Oaxaca told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik.
Oaxaca said teachers didn’t initiate classroom discussions on the shooting but were prepared to answer questions.
"They had short but honest conversations, trying to get some of the details, and reassuring them this is why we do these things," he said.
Fulton County Schools have also beefed up their police presence this week, and the district is reviewing all of its safety procedures and practices.