Safety officials secure the area near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012 following a shooting at the school. A lone gunman killed 26 people, including 18 children, according to officials. Gannett, Frank Becerra Jr./The (Westchester, N.Y. Journal News)
ANOKA, Minn. - It is not hard to understand why at the end of a school day like this one, parent Dawn Karlsen can't seem to hold on to her 10-year-old daughter long enough.
"You just hug your kids tighter and just pray for everyone," said Karlsen.
She and so many parents are wondering why something so inexplicably devastating could happen to so many of the country's innocent.
"School is supposed to be safe for our kids. And it's scary," she said.
After the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, parents called their schools in the Metro area wondering what safety plans were in place and asking for advice on how they should talk to their kids about what happened.
"We've already been getting calls from parents. Principals have been concerned," said Barry Scanlan with the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Scanlan is the Trauma Response and Prevention Coordinator for the biggest school district in the state, Anoka-Hennepin. Like other schools, his district sent home a letter to parents Friday reassuring them their schools are safe and provided tips on how to talk to their children about the shooting.
"You just immediately think, 'How is my kid? Is my school safe?' I don't blame the parents calling up and asking questions. I would," he said.
"Every day you pray it doesn't happen," added Chuck Holden.
Holden is Anoka-Hennepin's Chief Operations Officer. By law, Minnesota schools are mandated to set up a safety plan with law enforcement and practice at least five lockdown drills a year.
"So that our staff and students don't have to think in a situation like that, they just react," said Holden.
With exception to the front door, all other exterior school doors are locked at Anoka-Hennepin during classes, every staff member is trained in crisis situations and the district meets monthly with area police who have real time access to building plans.
"They know everything about that building," he said.
But Karlsen wonders if anything is enough.
"Are we going to have to mandate armed guards in our schools to make sure this doesn't happen? It's horrible to have to think we have to do that, but what's the alternative," she asked.
They are questions parents are asking after so many children were killed so senselessly.
"Christmas is right around the corner and for these families, it's just heart-wrenching," added Karlsen.
(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)