A Time To Mourn

On the first official school day since the loss of one of its students, Fletcher Elementary School was prepared for fallout in the way of grief.

A team composed of Jamestown Public Schools counselors converged on the school Wednesday to help students and teachers cope with the death of Isabella Stanford, a 5-year-old kindergartener, who died in a tragic sledding accident on Friday.

“We have the district crisis intervention team of four counselors and one psychologist,” said Maria DeJoy, principal of Fletcher. “There is community support from (Chautauqua) Striders, who are all ready to respond to student and adult needs, and we brought in a couple of substitute teachers to cover classes in case teachers needed some extra time with a counselor.”

Although these preparatory steps were taken by the district, DeJoy said there were no signs of distress among students or faculty.

“It’s been a normal day,” she said, during school hours on Wednesday. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the week after such a tragedy. Everybody has done well and none of our kids seem distraught.”

The crisis intervention team consists of counselors and psychiatrists employed in JPS facilities throughout the district. In an emergency situation or time of need for a particular school, the team is dispatched to that building to be available for grief counseling. After the tragic loss of Isabella, the district took the necessary steps to provide this counseling to students returning to class. As a formality, the team will also be available to Fletcher School today.

The deployment of the team was discussed at JPS’ Board of Education meeting on Tuesday evening where a statement on the tragedy was made by Deke Kathman, JPS superintendent.

“A tragedy like this causes us all to reflect on our blessings with our own children and with the students that our community entrusts to our care,” said Kathman. “My own reflections caused me to want to amplify one of the messages offered by another leader in our community. In his comments immediately following this tragedy, Police Chief (Harry) Snellings pointed to a very serious consideration for us all: ‘If you are witness to an unsafe and/or dangerous circumstance involving any of our community’s children, report it or otherwise act to correct it. In so doing, a future tragedy might be prevented and our community made a safer place for all our kids.'”

He added: “If there had been a way to avoid that tragedy, we need to take advantage of those opportunities. I hope that if I had been driving by Foote Ave. five minutes before that event, that I would have stopped and admonished those students or found their caregiver and redirected that whole circumstance. That’s what Chief Snellings reminds us all to take charge of, and it’s good advice.”

As for a memorial of Isabella at Fletcher, DeJoy said that careful planning is required.

“We don’t have a memorial yet,” she said. “We want to take time to plan that. When there is one, our school and community will know (about it).”