Five-year-old Rasiyah Buckley was eager to show off her “first day” outfit as she walked to the rear entrance of Griffith Elementary.
Rasiyah wore her black slippers adorned with a rim of white jewels, black jeans, a belted blue shirt, and last but not least, a smile under her head of cascading braids with pride.
And Rasiyah’s mother, Jessica Dunkins, 29, is happy Rasiyah finally has a chance to wear the clothing to school.
In spite of the recent unrest of the Ferguson community — with the burial of Michael Brown, the teen who was fatally shot in an incident involving Ferguson police, happening on Monday — Jana Shortt, director of communications and marketing for the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD), said the district is prepared to receive its students.
Last week, the FFSD’s 2,000 employees participated in the Response, Intervention, Support and Education crisis training, so they would be better prepared to meet students’ emotional needs.
Besides the district’s normal staff of counselors, Great Circle therapists were also there on Day 1 to lend a helping hand.
“Well, what we are hoping to provide here is a sense of normalcy, getting back to school is something students and staff are ready for,” Shortt said. “There will be talks with children and conversation will be taking place in class. The district will be here to have those conversations.”
According to Shortt, Griffith Elementary, located at 200 Day Drive in Ferguson, was home to about 383 students last year. She said 93 percent of its students last year were African American and 4.4 percent were Caucasian. Griffith is closest to the area hardest hit by looting and protests following the fatal shooting of Brown.
Still, Dunkins isn’t uneasy about her daughter’s safety.
“It has died down a lot,” Dunkins said, referring to the violence.
Since school was delayed, Dunkins attempted to teach Rasiyah at home.
“I have her help me match socks when I do the laundry, and as we walk to the store tell me the colors of buildings and the letters on the signs,” she said. “Little things like that.”
Classes in the Ferguson-Florissant School District were initially scheduled to start Aug. 14th. Due to concerns about students walking to school or waiting for buses in the midst of continued community unrest, though, school officials postponed opening its doors to Aug. 14th, Aug. 18th, and the remainder of last week.
Besides Griffith, other FFSD schools located in Ferguson include Central Elementary, Johnson-Wabash Elementary, Lee-Hamilton Elementary, Vogt Elementary, Walnut Grove Elementary, Ferguson Middle School, and McCluer South-Berkeley High. The district’s Challenger Learning Center, which provides science and space education to students in the FFSD and beyond, is also located in Ferguson.
On Monday, the district announced that Aug. 25th would be the new day for classes to begin for its more than 11,000 students.
Asked if she was sad about the first day of school being delayed so much, Rasiyah said “No, because I’m always happy.”
Frances Hollis, 30, said it is hard to describe her feelings.