Monday, May 30 , 2016, 12:29 am | Overcast 58º

School Helping Elementary Students Cope After Lockdown During Isla Vista Shootings

Counseling and an arts project provide an outlet for a group of students who were on the UCSB campus for a performance when the violence erupted

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

A handful of Isla Vista Elementary School students were at Embarcadero Hall on the UCSB campus during Friday’s shooting rampage in Isla Vista and were locked down in the theater, along with everyone else present, during an IMPROVability performance.

The UCSB vs. Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo show started at 8 p.m. at the theater at 935 Embarcadero del Norte, according to organizer Isla Vista Arts.

“A group of our kids were there at the time this occurred, and they were locked down in place,” said Bill Banning, superintendent of the Goleta Union School District. “They were not witnesses to anything.”

Goleta Union officials weren't sure about details, or how long the lockdown lasted, but it appears that four to six Isla Vista Elementary students were present, said Margaret Saleh, assistant superintendent of pupil services.

As way of confirmation, some of these children needed extra special attention this week, in terms of getting access to counselors and other help, she said.

Principal Mary Kahn worked with the teachers to give students an artistic outlet, with hand-colored hearts that were sent to the IV Deli Mart and other areas throughout Isla Vista.

“That seemed to actually give children a healthy outlet to be able to talk about this,” Saleh said.

Banning said that Isla Vista Elementary, a K-6 school located near UCSB faculty and student housing at 6875 El Colegio Road, had several additional counselors and school psychologists on campus this week to meet with concerned parents and students.

Goleta Union works collaboratively with UCSB’s school psychology program, with many doctorate students working as interns in the local schools, and UCSB made those people available to Isla Vista Elementary and other campuses this week, Saleh said.

“It’s such a nice collaboration and has been really very strong,” she said.

IV school
Isla Vista Elementary School students created hand-colored hearts in honor of last week's shooting victims. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

The school community feels a deep connection to the tragedy with many parents working in the downtown businesses and many families who were in the area during the shootings, Banning said.

They also use student teachers from UCSB, but it appears that none of the six UCSB student victims are directly connected to the school. 

In the time after Friday’s events, no security plans have changed “besides taking a careful look at what we might need to do,” Banning added.

Since routine is important for children, staff and faculty worked hard to make Tuesday feel like any other day, with a normal, safe environment. Teachers had discretion to talk to students about Friday’s events and students had the opportunity to meet with counselors, Banning said.

He visited every classroom Tuesday morning and said students were engaged and happy.

“I suspect there were conversations in every classroom, but it didn’t define a whole day; it probably just defined the morning,” he said.

The counseling plan was “a plan we always hoped we would never need to use,” Saleh said.

The entire school was put on lockdown last Tuesday when authorities were searching for a male suspect after reports of possible gunshots, but a suspect was not found, nor evidence of any gunshots. 

Some students were nervous, but teachers and staff were “right on top of it” and followed procedure very effectively, Banning said.

Law enforcement officers came onto the campus with dogs and soon cleared the campus, with lockdown lasting about one hour. School officials sent out a phone and email alert to parents when the lockdown was implemented and lifted, as usual.

“Had that happened alone, it would have come and gone,” Banning said. “The impact of that and then three days later the incident in the community put people more on edge than they would have been otherwise.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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