Our hearts are heavy today. All Mainers are deeply saddened by the tragedy in Lewiston, especially as we learn about the victims and try to make sense of such a senseless act of violence. The search for the suspect in the Lewiston tragedy continues but there have been promising developments this evening. While we would like to return to normalcy, it is still too early to definitively say whether or not we will be able to be at school tomorrow. If the suspect is not apprehended by Friday morning, schools will be closed again on Friday. If the suspect has been found or is in custody by Friday morning, schools will be open on Friday. I will send a communication early Friday morning to let you know if school will be closed or open. Either way, please know that we are here to support our students, families, and staff as we all heal from this horrific event.
Throughout the day, our school and district leaders, staff, and I have been working together to plan ways of supporting both students and adults in the days and weeks ahead. I have also been in touch with the Westbrook Police Department and with other area schools for updates. All of us are thinking about how we can help each other heal. Children will process this situation in different ways. They have likely heard news stories, seen images, and interacted with social media, accessing information that may or may not be accurate. The following suggestions may be helpful in the days and weeks ahead:
Take time to talk with children about the tragedy. Listen to what they know and how it makes them feel. Young children need to be reassured of their safety and that people care for them at home, in school, and in the community, like family members, school staff, and police officers. Older children need this reassurance as well, but they may also need time to process their feelings and may express anger, fear, sadness, and even a call to action. Affirm their feelings and share yours too.
Limit their exposure to social media and television news, especially when stories are repeated over and over again. Watch a movie, read a book, or play a game.
Remind students that our schools’ top priority is the safety of all students and staff. We work to create safe environments by keeping building doors locked, providing supervision on playgrounds, and offering mental health resources when needed.
If you, your children, or someone you love need help in processing this horrific event, please call 988.
You may also find the following resources helpful: Helping Children Cope With Tragedy Related Anxiety | Mental Health America (mhanational.org) from the US Department of Health and Human Services and How to Support a Child after a Tragedy from the Center for Grieving Children.
Please continue to keep the people of Lewiston in your thoughts and prayers, especially those who lost their lives or were injured. We send comfort to their families, friends, and the many people impacted by this tragedy. I would also ask that you keep local, state, and federal first responders - officers, investigators, EMTs and ambulance drivers, health care and mental health providers - in your thoughts and thank them as they continue to help us heal.
We will heal and we will move on. We will do this by coming together as we always do, taking care of each other in multiple ways. I appreciate our entire school staff and am thankful to those of you who have reached out throughout the day to support our students, each other, and our community.
Take care and be strong!
Peter Lancia, Superintendent of Schools