"The smiles and hugs were abundant as we reunited" Friday at Oxford Middle School and five elementary schools, Superintendent Tim Throne posts as he thanks "our staff, students, and families for a safe and successful return" 10 days after four high schoolers were killed. More than four-fifths of pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade were present.
Therapy dogs and counselors were at each building. Teachers and other staff stayed all day, while students left by noon. Full-day classes resume Monday through next Friday, the start of a two-week holiday break. High school students will remain out of classrooms until sometime in January.
Here's part of what Throne says at the district's site:
As we continue to grieve and heal after the horrific events of last week, getting back into our educational routines and being together in the schools again is a critical component. Today, attendance was 83% across our buildings, a huge success and statement given what we are going through. Thank you for your trust and support. ...
Our local law enforcement and our private security firm will maintain a strong presence at our buildings. ...
We have a long journey ahead and we should feel proud we took this important step together today. Please keep the families and victims of last week’s tragedy in your thoughts and prayers.
Original post, Friday:
Traumatized educators, students and parents are moving into a next stage of recovery in nort.h Oakland County. Oxford Community Schools reopen Friday for kindergarteners through eighth-graders -- "as hard as it may be to imagine moving forward," the superintendent says.
Staffers returned Thursday for all-day trauma response training and planning. Students will attend five elementary schools and one middle school until noon Friday, while staff will stay the entire day. Full-day classes resume Monday through next Friday, the start of a two-week holiday break.
Backpacks are banned until January. "A team of trained therapy dogs" will be be at each building through next week, the superintendent says Thursday in a description of "protocols for our safe reopening." He adds:
Every district building will have law enforcement on-site. We encourage you to talk with your child about this so they are aware and prepared to see uniformed officers at their school starting Friday. Let them know they are there to protect them and help keep them safe.
The district has also hired a personal security firm that will have personnel on-site at every building district-wide. ...
We will continue to have professionally trained trauma specialists available at every building for students and staff.
There's no word yet on when or where high school resumes in January. In the meantime, displaced students are invited to "spend time together" Friday night at Oxford Elementary School from 8-11 p.m. "We will have police and staff on site, extra security measures," Principal Steven Wolf posts. "Professionally trained counselors and therapists will be available as well."
In a Saturday outline of plans to start moving past last week's deadly high school shooting,Superintendent Tim Throne said the district "sought advice and counsel from school leaders and families who have been through similar tragedies in other states."
"There is broad agreement that it is vital to the well-being and mental health of our students and staff to come back to a learning environment as soon as possible. ...
"Some children rely on academics as a tool to create familiarity and normalcy. The number one goal of our plan is supporting the emotional health and well-being of our students by getting them back into a routine and offering an opportunity for them to be together, interact with their fellow students and school staff, share experiences, grieve and continue their educational journeys.
"This 'soft reopening' of schools will feature a law enforcement presence as well as the presence of trained clinicians and counselors who will be on-site and visible to support our students and our staff."
The district's Virtual Academy retstarted online classes Thursday, when hybrid program classes also resume in person and online for elementary and middle school pupils.
Oxford Early Learning Center reopened Wednesday for child-care of children up to age 4, and today started accepting youngsters of district employees.
Threre's no timetable yet for high school instruction, though athletic team practices will "start up again around our community and at neighboring districts," says the announcement. Competitions are cancelled through next week.
Highat Oxford Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 10, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for high school students who would like some structured activities and to just spend time together. We will have police and staff on site, extra security measures, and professionally trained counselors and therapists will be available as well.
The superintendent's posting last weekend adds:
It will be quite some time before the high school is ready to serve as an educational setting again. The plan for high school students is still evolving and we will communicate it to you once it is solidified.
In the meantime, we are working to create opportunities for the students to be together in our community. We will share that information once it is final.
In a letter to the 1,800 high schoolers and their families on Monday, Principal Wolf writes that staff members are "reaching out to each individual student. We want to make sure that we have heard from each student." He notes that "this experience is more than anyone can be expected to handle on their own."
Oakland Technical Education Center instruction also is cancelled indefinitely. Seniors earning advance credits through an Oxford Early College program "will receive an email early next week to develop a personal plan to complete their college classes."
Oxford's district spans nearly 78 square miles, reaching into five townships and two villages. It's one of Southeast Michigan's largest districts in geographic size.
Superintendent Throne ends last weekend's message with this rallying cry: "This tragedy will not define us."