EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Students in East Palestine returned to school on Monday, and school officials say additional support is available for the kids.
It’s one of the first few steps in order for East Palestine residents to begin returning to some kind of normalcy.
“The district is providing counseling resources at all three schools. It’s available for students who may want to talk to someone. Teachers and staff have been preparing through professional development training focused on trauma and its impact on students,” said Superintendent Chris Neifer.
However, there is an understanding that some students may not return for a few more days. There are still many families displaced and awaiting air monitoring or cleaning services in their homes.
Neifer said this was to be expected.
“This is certainly a tough situation that none of us are really prepared for, but we’ll work with our families. We’ll make sure that we do what we can to support them,” Neifer said.
Neifer says families that were still displaced can contact their child’s school if they have not done so already.
It was just last week when the East Palestine school building was used as a command center by officials during the train derailment.
“Once we got the shelter out and once we got the incident command out of here, we had two companies come in and all areas that we utilized throughout this process were all deep cleaned,” Neifer said.
Neifer understands that some parents may still have concerns about sending their children back to school. However…
“We are following all protocols that have been given to us by the EPA and different companies as to how things should have been cleaned here. Same with our HVAC systems. We’ve made sure that those were scrubbed, filters were changed,” he said.
As far as attendance goes…
“It’s better than what I expected. I was hopeful that we would get to 75% or so. The fact that our attendance is even better than that, I think, just speaks volume to the work that is being done here in the district,” Neifer said.
The classroom is not the only area that was impacted — so were sports and other extracurricular activities.
Last week would have been a busy week in sports for some students in the district. East Palestine was slated to host the middle school basketball league tournament. It has been postponed to Monday.
However, no games will be hosted in East Palestine on Monday. But this Thursday, the high school girls basketball team is getting their chance to host a tournament game they earned.
“We are hosting a OSHAA girls tournament game versus Bristol. Our girls were in a seed where we had earned a home court game and certainly hoping to get that in place and get those girls to be able to play,” Neifer said.
All last week, several businesses stepped up to provide spaces for students to meet or practice.
Neifer says the surrounding community support has been amazing.
He also had a big thank you to his staff for working with organizations and businesses to provide these things.
Some even went hotel to hotel to meet with kids to give them a friendly face to see amongst everything going on.