Cedar Springs schools coping with recent student deaths

Cora Gonzales
An undated courtesy photo of Cora Gonzales, 11.

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Cedar Springs Public Schools continues to offer counseling for students and staff after two students have died in one month.

Cora Gonzales, an 11-year-old girl died from a crash that happened earlier this month. Emma Orr, died a few weeks earlier after fighting cancer for two years. Both girls were students at Cedar View Elementary School.

24 Hour News 8 talked to Cedar Springs Superintendent Laura VanDuyn who said it’s been a very hard week for students and staff.

“I can tell you it’s uh, I’ll try to stay composed here… we’re grieving, students were grieving, the principal is grieving. It’s just been real rough,” said VanDuyn.

The Cedar Springs School District sent out a letter to parents, part of it reads:

“Our Cedar View principal, staff, students and families have suffered the loss of 2 beautiful young children in 3 weeks.  They have been caring for one another and many others in a tremendous way.  Please do pray for all of them as they will work in the days, weeks, and months ahead to somehow reconcile with the loss of Cora, a child they loved and will sorely miss.

“This morning we assembled a large team of counselors, staff and clergy to assist at Cedar View and around the district.  Throughout the day they have met with countless students and staff.  Students may need a lot of support as they arrive home and/or return to school tomorrow.”

More than 175 students total have seen counselors this week throughout the Cedar Springs school community.

VanDuyn said this is possible because of their crisis team. The team is made up of 10 people, including a social worker, school and mental health counselors and psychologist. It was put together during the 2015-2016 school year when three Cedar Springs students died by suicide.

“It’s been what has carried us through these situations is this crisis team and the love and support for all of our staff and families,” said VanDuyn. “I got hugs yesterday, students are coming up and hugging me because we’re all deeply saddened.”

Principals sent out information about grieving and trauma for parents as well as a list of resources for parents to use at home if their child is suffering.

VanDuyn said counseling will be available for students and staff for as long as it’s needed.