If there’s a school in Springfield which might be able to relate to the trauma in Newtown, Connecticut, it’s Elias Brookings. The school took a direct hit from last year’s tornado that ripped through the city. Brookings Elementary has roughly 330 students, ages 3 to 12, in pre-K though 5th grade. For Gianna Allentuck, the school’s adjustment counselor, it was nothing short of a miracle no one was injured or worse on that Wednesday afternoon when the tornado tore through the neighborhood.
“There wasn’t a day ever that we weren’t here until 5 or 5:30 just kind of finishing up. There was always students’ waiting in the main office. Either their parents were on their way to pick them up or maybe they were meeting with a teacher. But there was always somebody in the building.”
Allentuck says it took the support of extra counselors from other schools to help children who had been displaced from their two main comfort zones; home and school.
“Everybody, no matter the age and developmental awareness knew that a tornado of monumental proportions had come through and destroyed their homes, their schools, their lives. And so there was a lot of tears, a lot of fear about is it coming back? Are we going to get another one? And so it was very helpful to have, you know, the extra support of the counselors.”
Allentuck says it also took support from community members who volunteered to come in and interact with the children to help them. And with Newtown in mind, she says, that support has to be ongoing.
“We’re still really challenged in reaching the level of community and family engagement that we need. And so, you know, to take something like this and to take something like the model of unity that happened after the tornado, I kind of feel like that’s where we should be every day and not just in the wake of such a tragedy.”
Allentuck says, so far, most of the children at Brookings are largely unaware of last Friday’s mass shooting. But she says the school is dealing individually with those who know and may have trouble coping with the news.