Along with their classmates, Ketron Elementary students Gabriel Hinkle, Ethan Absher and Alexia Lane make snowflakes on Friday in memory of the students killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Photo by David Grace.
KINGSPORT — A Ketron Elementary School art classroom has become snowflake central these days.
What started out as a project to decorate the new home of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with snowflakes from 80 Ketron art students instead will become a memorial at Ketron for the 26 who lost their lives to a gunman at the school.
The project comes as Sullivan County school officials continue a conversation about safety at county schools, including ones like Ketron that have no school resource officer.
David Meade’s first- and third-grade art students this week began working on the paper cut snowflakes with plans to ship them to Sandy Hook Monday.
However, Meade got word Thursday that the school and town were snowbound, so to speak, and they requested that the snowflakes be displayed at the schools where they were made instead of being sent to Sandy Hook.
“They have received so many, they have asked if we can put them up in our school instead,” he told a class of 16 third-graders Friday morning before the snowflake making began.
Each student was instructed to make at least one snowflake for the project, with additional ones allowed to be used in the display or taken home. Some students approached 10 snowflakes during the 45-minute class.
“I did this in second grade before,” said Gracie Chandler, an 8-year-old in the class and, like almost all of Meade’s students, from Bloomingdale.
Caleb Buckner, 10, made one large snowflake and a small one that looked like a face.
“How do you make the spider web?” one student asked Meade during the class. “I cut out most of the paper,” Meade answered.
Meade said his hope is to cover the hallway leading to his art classroom with the snowflakes, and by Friday the hallway already had some flakes in place there.
The snowflake project also uses math and some simple geometry. The math comes in the last two folds at 60 degrees and 30 degrees, which results in a snow cone or ice cream cone shape students use to cut away areas to make the flakes.
The geometry is making triangles out of a sheet of white typing paper by folding it twice.
A tougher lesson for the students and their parents is the news of the Dec. 14 killing of 26 people — 20 students and six staff — at Sandy Hook. Before the school rampage, the gunman killed his mother and then committed suicide after the school killings.
“They talked a little bit about it but not a lot,” Meade said of the days following the deaths. “The first-graders know it as the incident.”
Maycee Christian, 8, said her mother has told her something about the incident.
“My mom is updating on the computer almost every day,” Maycee said.
Bailey Bausell, 10, said, “We don’t talk much about it.”
Hailee Mattox, 8, said she didn’t know much about the incident, either, while working on her third snowflake.
Aaron Vaughn, 8, ended up making seven snowflakes.
The killings with a semi-automatic assault weapon have been followed by a nationwide debate and discussion about arming principals, teachers and other school personnel, as well as putting more school resource officers into classrooms.
The Board of Education in Hawkins County is talking about putting SROs in every school, at a projected cost of $725,000 for the additional officers. The Sullivan County BOE Monday plans to take up a resolution pushing for more SROs in county schools.
Currently, each of the four county high schools has an assigned SRO, including Carolyn Gudger who at Sullivan Central High School in 2010 helped divert an armed man away from students and staff before sheriff’s deputies killed him when he refused to put down his weapon.
Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said he hasn’t heard anything directly from the Shooters Edge firing range official in Piney Flats on a proposal to offer training to teachers and school staff. The proposal is to be presented to the Sullivan County Commission later this month.
Yennie said hiring additional SROs to place one in every Sullivan County school probably would cost more than $1 million. He and Sheriff Wayne Anderson proposed that after the 2010 incident at Central, but the plan failed to win grant funding or get traction with the county commission.
The Sullivan BOE meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the first-floor meeting room of the health and education building, off the Blountville Bypass.