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After Delay, Ferguson-Florissant Schools Open With Enthusiasm

Volunteers for Parents for Peace welcome back students at Ferguson Middle School.
Credit Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio
Volunteers for Parents for Peace welcome back students at Ferguson Middle School.

  Updated on Monday, Aug. 25.

After a being delayed for more than a week, about 11,000 students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District started their school year today.  

As kids filed into Ferguson Middle School – which is located about two miles from where protesters violently clashed with police – a stream of students, parents and teachers said they were happy to be back in the classroom. 

Among them was math teacher Gerry Glenn, who distributed high fives and pats-on-the-back to students.

“Every kid here is our kid, and we treat them all that way because we really feel that way,” Glenn said.  “We work hard with them, and I’m excited.  This is my 26 th year and I’m more excited about this year than any year in the past.”

Erica Williams’ said her son Nicholas, who is starting seventh grade, couldn't wait to get to class.

“This morning he knocked on the door and said, ‘is there school?’” Williams said.  “My husband said, ‘yes’ and my son said “YES!’”

Williams is part of the volunteer group Parents for Peace, which popped up in the wake of school delays following protests in Ferguson.  Members of the group waved handmade signs and banners to welcome students.     

Donnetta Cleveland’s daughter Dalicia is also entering the seventh grade and said getting her back to school is a relief.

“You just don’t know, I’m so excited I’m ready to do a cartwheel!” Cleveland said.

Dalicia brimmed with excitement, too.  At the same time, she’s been talking with her friends about the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.     

“They didn’t have to shoot him,” Dalicia said.  “He was still trying to grow up himself.”

The Ferguson-Florissant School District expects those types of conversations to spill over into the classroom. Last week 2,000 district employees received a crash course in crisis counseling and administrators brought in extra mental health professions to help students shaken by recent events.  

District spokesperson, Jana Shortt, said that they don’t have a scripted way for talking with students about Michael Brown’s death.    

“Forcing the conversation is not the right way to approach it,” Shortt said.  “It’s really much more of a listening and responding process.”

Shortt added that schools are uniquely equipped to help students untangle any anger and hurt they feel about the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.

“Being in education, we sit a place where we have the potential to make a real difference,” Shortt said.   

Original Story on Aug. 24. 

The Ferguson-Florissant School District is scheduled to open its doors Aug. 25 to about 11,000 students. That comes a week and a half later than was planned, as district officials postponed the start of the academic year because of unrest following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

During the delay, schools gave out sack lunches and libraries put together learning activities. The district also gave teachers a crash course in crisis counseling and it is bringing in extra mental health professionals.

“We do think there are a lot of classrooms around the district where some very meaningful conversations are taking place,” said district spokesperson Jana Shortt.

The effects of trauma on kids can take time to rise to the surface; and Shortt said educators will continue monitor students’ mental health for weeks to come.

“This is going to be top of mind, and they’ll continue to look for signs of distress in various grade levels,” Shortt said.

Help inform our coverage Even before the recent incidents in Ferguson, race has been an issue that's bound to come up in many homes and classrooms. What kinds of conversations are you having?  Please click on the following link to respond through our Public Insight Network: Parents, educators, students: How do you discuss race in your home/classroom? 

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