Sparks, library staff comfort elementary and high school students during crisis

As students from Tatanka Elementary were evacuated to the high school, library staff members worked to keep them calm, connected, and learning

Editor’s Note: The following is one in a series of developing stories about the events and reactions throughout BHM Schools in response to the mass shooting event on February 9 at Allina Clinic in Buffalo. More stories are being written about staff, students, and community members who responded to the event.

Library Learning Commons Coordinator Amy Sparks got pulled into a quiet room with a few other teachers at 11 a.m. on February 9. They were alerted to a mass shooting event that had occurred moments before at the Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo, only a few miles away. The select staff were informed that students from Tatanka Elementary School and PRIDE Transitions were being evacuated and relocated to the high school. Without hesitation, Sparks began allocating resources and planning with fellow staff members on how to make the high school a safe and calming place while bomb squads and police from all over the state descended on the clinic a few miles down the road.

Library staff member Marissa Russell re-shelves books that were used to educate and comfort elementary school students who were evacuated to the high school on February 9 following an attack at the Allina Crossroads Clinic in Buffalo.

Throughout the day, the fast actions of first responders were highly praised, as they were able to neutralize the situation within minutes. What the mainstream media neglected to cover was the unsung heroes of the traumatizing day: the staff of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District.
With six years of teaching under her belt, Sparks is no stranger to unexpected and sudden changes.

“When we had to shift into being a campus that supported students from kindergarten, to people with cognitive disabilities that are transitioning, and our own students here, it wasn’t any different than any other day that I work here at Buffalo High School. The first responders were so impressed with how we teachers took care of the students that came here and […]how we all worked together to support each other and to make each other feel safe and taken care of,” said Sparks.

Amy Sparks was in charge of keeping the high schoolers in the building safe and distracted throughout the day. She organized mindfulness activities for the high school students and filled supply carts with picture books for the children arriving downstairs. Because of these efforts, students were able to feel safe, even when some teachers did not. Looking back on the situation, Sparks recounted her feeling of uncertainty as she shifted in her role.

“There was definitely a moment [of uncertainty],” Sparks said.“I had to deal with it and come to terms with it. Here I am. I am going to get through this with my students. [I] couldn’t stay there… [we] had to transition into just doing the best that we could.”

The efforts of Sparks and other BHM staff members helped bring security to an uncertain situation. The students of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District remained safe and returned home to their families unscathed.

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