Sandy Hook shooting: Local schools increase security after elementary shooting

Culpeper added extra police to patrol schools after the shooting in Connecticut. (Photo: Culpeper)

Schools in the Washington area will have counselors and some extra police patrols as students return to class following the school shooting in Connecticut.

Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale said county police would increase patrols and visibility this week around all county schools. Dale says this is not a response to any threat. He says it's a police initiative to enhance safety and alleviate anxiety. Fairfax County is the largest school system in the Washington area with 181,000 students.

On this bleak back to school Monday, Derek Baxter's feelings are the rule, not the exception.

"I know everybody feels very vulnerable,” he says. “Very concerned"

Baxter's daughter is in kindergarten at Fair Hill Elementary in Merrifield. It’s a place that seems secure. But after Newtown, nothing seems certain.

"Everyone is vulnerable, even if you have security,” he says.

In Fairfax County and across Northern Virginia, police increasing patrols before and after school on Monday. From the counties of Loudoun and Prince William to Stafford, agencies everywhere wanting to show parents they are visible and vigilant.

At Westgate Elementary near Falls Church, most of the 600 or students seemed largely unaware of the additional security, put in place as a precaution.

Parent Kathy Timmons thought the additional security was a good idea. While she's happy that the school practices lockdowns and takes security seriously, she says she's concerned that intruders could still gain entrance, especially in the trailers occupied by students outside the main building.

Fairfax County is the largest school system in the region with 181,000 students. Other local school districts also increased patrols.

In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools plan to have counselors available Monday to support the county's 149,000 students. Officials say school principals will take time to make sure children are dealing with the tragedy as best as they can.

At the start and the end of the day, there was heavy police presence at many Montgomery County elementary schools.

But it was still not enough to ease the anxiety felt by some parents as they dropped their children off.

“Are you going to see them tonight? Are you going be able to hold them hug them?” asked parent Maria Chirkov. “How are you going to make sure they're safe?”

Several of the county's school have security measures similar to Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. Visitors have to be buzzed in.

Stephen Edelen, who’s twin daughters attends Chevy Chase Elementary, feels comfortable by the security in place.

“In the school, they have a list of what to do at different levels, if it's a red code a blue code,” Edelen says.

The principle at Thomas Pullen Elementary in Landover announced a moment of silence through out the school. Outside, even before the first school bus dropped off students, Prince George's County police officers arrived and set up in the parking lot.

School officials are calling it a soft police presence over the next week or two. After the tragic shooting in Connecticut, many school systems in the D.C. area is adding extra police patrol and grief counselors.

All schools in Prince George's County are flying flags at half-staff. Teachers and counselors at many of these school will be watching extra closely for warning signs of anxiety and fear.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.