Counselors prepared at local schools

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Juneau's schools are open today, with counselors and psychologists prepared to talk to students upset about the terrorist attacks in the United States. But attendance is down, and absences will be excused, officials said.

"Many parents are keeping their children home today, and many kids have been coming in late because they've been watching it on the news," said Nancy Eiler in the attendance office at Floyd Dryden Middle School.

Parent Jim Vollmer said he thought it would be better to close the schools, so families could prepare for a possible emergency and remember the thousands of people "we lost this morning."

Vollmer told his children, a second-grader and a fourth-grader at Harborview Elementary, that there had been a horrible incident and that it probably was one of the worst things they'll see in their lifetime.

Deb Morse, principal at Juneau-Douglas High School, told staff in an e-mail this morning to maintain as much of a normal school day as possible and to contact administrators for support if they needed it.

But it was the main topic among students this morning, and radios and televisions in school offices and classrooms were turned on to follow the news.

"There's going to be a lot of fighting now between us and the terrorists," said JDHS student Jake Abbott. But "there's nothing to worry about here in Juneau," he said.

JDHS student Katelyn Royer said the incidents were scary and could trigger violence locally.

"I didn't want to go to school today. I thought someone would think it was a sign to shoot up the school," she said.

The school district sent its five psychologists to the schools this morning. And counselors are prepared to help students.

"As a whole I think the most stability is provided to the families by continuing business as usual, but providing counselors as needed," said school district Assistant Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

"A tragedy like this hits different levels for each individual," partly based on students' own experience with grief or loss, said JDHS counselor Frank Coenraad. "If a student has had a loss in the past, an image like this could certainly trigger something."

Bob Dye, principal at Harborview Elementary, met with staff this morning, canceled two field trips so students and staff would be together, and locked all but the main doors, which will be watched.

"At times like this, people are a little unsettled, a little anxious - staff and students. An added measure of security makes people a little more comfortable," he said.

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