Hundreds of Hanover students will find out Sunday evening whether they will be heading to school in the morning.
Voicemail threats were directed at three Hanover schools in the past couple of weeks, resulting in closures. Students and teachers transitioned to remote learning where possible.
“Remote learning can be hard on some families, but a couple days missed is not the end of the world,” says Charlene Kratavicius. She says safety needs to be top of mind.
Meanwhile, Fabian Feichtinger says these threats are concerning as the number increases.
“Don’t take any risks, especially with the kids,” he says, supporting Hanover’s decision to close some of the schools.
Vanessa McLoed also appreciates the closure decisions.
“I think putting our children’s safety should be the absolute first priority,” she says.
Rob Jessup has a couple of children in middle school in Steinbach and he appreciates knowing that Hanover takes student safety seriously.
“We as a family are appreciative, we would rather be closed for a day or two or three than have to deal with if we didn’t take this caution,” says Jessup.
He says his children and the other students have heard about the threats and there are a variety of responses.
“They’re not sure what to think of it,” Jessup says. “But we talk to them. Kids are kids, so their reactions are... one might be worried and the other one is pretty blasé about the whole thing. And we get everything in between. We’re just honest with them when we come to stuff like this and let them know what’s going on.”
On Friday, Hanover superintendent Shelley Amos indicated that the weekend would be spent investigating the voicemail threats, and that a decision would be made on Sunday evening regarding the plan for school on Monday.
In an update that was published Friday evening on the division’s website, Amos indicated that this situation may cause anxiety for some children and counselling support may be necessary.
We can expect divisional social workers and school counsellors to be available at the affected schools this week to provide support as needed.
Amos offers guidance that might also be helpful for parents/caregivers:
Listen and acknowledge all feelings by taking the time to hear what your child is saying and responding to their worries. This discussion would be best if it occurs in a supportive environment where there is no judgement and you can sit without distractions. When children ask questions, use age-appropriate language and a calm and reassuring tone of voice. Your child needs to feel safe and know that their home environment will remain stable with a regular routine.
Limit media exposure and be involved in their use of technology (e.g., cell phones, tablets, iPods, computers, etc.). Be mindful of your discussions regarding these events in the presence of children, and be aware that children often listen when you don’t think they are.
Provide factual information about what your children have observed or experienced, taking into account the age and level of understanding of your children. Do not speculate.
Parents should be aware that being overly protective of their children is a normal response. Sometimes a natural reaction for a parent is to keep their child home or avoid talking about this event; however, this will intensify the feelings of anxiety your child may be experiencing.
Some common reactions may include school avoidance, avoiding talking about their feelings, losing sleep or having nightmares, a sense of helplessness, fear, anger and a heightened sense of vulnerability.
As much as possible, don’t allow adult emotions to negatively affect a child’s sense of security.
Reassure children that their feelings of vulnerability will subside with time, but if the feelings don’t subside, to let you know, and you will get them help.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to connect with their child’s teacher or principal to arrange any additional support for their children.
Amos advises that questions regarding this investigation should be directed to the RCMP.
“To those parents/caregivers of students attending Steinbach schools and Kleefeld School, please monitor your email this weekend for additional correspondence. We will send a follow-up email on Sunday evening to confirm whether affected schools will reopen on Monday,” Amos writes.