An Elmira community is still mourning the loss of four children in a tragic fire last Friday. With school starting back up this week the district has staffed extra counselors. As YNN's Katie Husband tells us, the help extends beyond the hallways.
ELMIRA, N.Y. -- For most students in Elmira, this week, it's back to the regular school routine. But for those who shared friendships with the four children lost to a fire last week, the preparation to head back to school is far different.
"Some of this is dependent upon what the needs are once the students arrive and staff arrive and it's hard to gage ahead of time, but we're prepared for whatever we need to do," said Hillary Austin, interim superintendent of the Elmira City School District.
Courtney Stanton, 17, Amera Mansour, 10, N.J. Mansour, 7, and Jordan Mansour, 5, were killed in the fire. Along with school counselors, Chemung County Crisis Department counselors are also on site at Southside High School, Broadway Middle School, Coburn and Riverside Elementary schools. They are there to help students and staff who knew the victims, especially the elementary age group.
"Part of that age is struggling to express what their feelings are inside depending on how much exposure they've had to previous loss, they may not have the insight that others would have," said Brian Hart, director of Community Services.
At the high school level Hart says the students may know who to talk to about the tragedy but might still not be comfortable enough to process it.
Both school and county officials say the timing of this tragedy is very difficult, especially with the students heading back to school this week. But they say the counselors on hand are prepared to handle any sort of potential reaction.
"Bringing their teams on board right away and acting the plans that we've practiced and we've rehearsed and knowing that they're prepared, you know, the timing, we just went forward as we would with a tragedy as if it happened in the middle of the school year," said Austin.
So, as students get back to school this week the focus for some may be less on what they are returning to and more on who they'll be missing.
If you or someone you know needs to talk to about a crisis, call Chemung County Crisis Department at (607) 737-5369. They are available 24/7.