The tragic shooting deaths of 20 first-grade students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. has affected students, faculty and staff at all Petaluma-area schools, but none more than those in the Waugh School District.
That district is still recovering from the death of popular Meadow School teacher Kimberly Baucom, who was shot and killed by her estranged husband, Kevin Conover, who then took his own life in April.
"It hits really close to home," said Waugh School District Superintendent Robert Cmelak. "We are now having to deal with two tragedies. Unfortunately, we knew instantly what our protocols were."
Cmelak said this year's double tragedy was especially tough on the faculty and staff in the district. "Many times adults feel more deeply than the children," he explained.
Cmelak said when district officials learned of the Connecticut shootings, a phone message was sent to district parents reassuring them that the district has safety practices in place to protect children and to let them know that counselors were available at both district school sites.
Waugh, like most districts, practices safety drills to deal with emergencies such as earthquakes, fire and potentially dangerous persons in the neighborhood or on campus.
Like many districts, Waugh administrators left it up to individual parents as to how they wanted to deal with their own children in regards to the news of the tragedy.
"If the parents are not going to bring it up, we're not going to bring it up," he said. "That is a decision for the parents."
He noted that the district had received many inquires from parents. "They have had a lot of questions about safety and other concerns," he said.
Help is also available for both students and parents in the Petaluma City Schools District, although district administrators have not planned any specific meetings or school assemblies.
Dave Rose, director of student services for the district, pointed out that there is help for students and families.
"We have counselors at all our schools and they are available to all students," he said.
He added that the district is reaching out to make sure teachers are aware of what to look for in students who might be feeling stress.
"We are also making parents aware of what signs to look for in their children," Rose said.
As news of the shootings began to circulate among students, the school district, on Friday, sent out an automated phone message to district households, letting parents know that counseling was available.
Flags are being flown at half-mast at all schools and a moment of silence is being observed for the families in Newtown prior to district sporting events.
Cmelak said the approaching winter break is coming at a good time.
"The kids are doing fine," he said. "I think the parents need a little break to spend some time with the kids they love."