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Connally ISD provides grief counseling after two teacher deaths in a week

Connally Junior High School
Posted at 10:18 AM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 11:18:06-04

WACO, Texas — Students and staff at Connally Junior High School learned Monday that a second teacher at their school passed away from COVID-19 complications over the weekend.

Natalia Chansler was a 6th-grade social studies teacher at Connally. She lost her life to COVID on Saturday, just days after last being on campus. This was just four days after losing 7th-grade social studies teacher David McCormick.

The district announced Monday that it will be temporarily closing its schools to sanitize buildings and hopefully stop the spread of the virus.

The loss of two teachers in a week can be difficult for students to process.

"We call that a complex or a compound trauma because they really haven't had an opportunity to get through or deal with or accept what has happened in one situation, and then something really bad happens right after that," said Jeni Janek, education specialist and coordinator at ESC Region 12.

Region 12 is providing grief counseling services for the school this week to help students make sense of the sudden loss. For parents at home, it can be difficult to know the best way to help their child.

"As a parent, the first thing I would say is to give yourself grace for that, for realizing that's it's probably one of the hardest things in the world to talk to your children about, a death or a loss in this manner," Janek said.

She said having an open dialogue can go a long way.

"Sometimes, engaging in an activity that doesn't just put the heaviness on that dialogue, you may be able to take a walk outside with your child or engaging in an activity inside your home," she said. "It might be cooking or doing a puzzle or something."

She says that it's not unusual for kids to struggle to process heavy grief like this, especially multiple events in just the first week and a half of the school year.

"It's not something that you ever expect to have to deal with whenever you're opening up a school year," said Connally ISD assistant superintendent of human relations, Jill Bottelberghe.

For kids and adults alike, grief is never easy. Janek says neither is running a school during a pandemic.

"School folks right now in any capacity, at any grade level are doing the best they can. I mean, just quite honestly, they're doing the best they can. They care so much for their kids, they're trying so hard to be safe," she said.

Connally and Region 12 counselors will be available at the junior high between 8 A.M. and 3:45 P.M. this week. For severe crisis situations, Janek recommends contacting Klaras Center for Families Mobile Crisis Outreach