Schools in Ferguson area prepare for an emotional opening day

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, August 25, 2014

The school year in Ferguson was scheduled to begin on Aug. 14, but the opening was delayed because of the unrest that followed the killing of Michael Brown five days earlier. Public schools will open on Monday, and teachers and administrators in the Ferguson-Florissant School District are eager to establish some sense of normalcy.

At University City High School, in a nearby district that opened on schedule, April Pezzolla, a sociology and government teacher, said she had invited students to conduct a free-ranging discussion on the first day of school earlier this month. “They were able to deconstruct the issues in terms of looking at things like poverty, education, the militarization of the police department and the perception around the country and the world that St. Louis was in turmoil,” she said.

Ms. Pezzolla, who has taught for 12 years at the school — where more than 90 percent of the students are African-American — said, “I have never been prouder to be a teacher than this past week.”

By contrast, a district across the state line in Illinois was reported to have asked teachers to “change the subject” if the events in Ferguson came up in class. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the principal of Edwardsville High School in Illinois had sent a memo to the staff saying that discussions of the protests “have caused students and parents to lash out, which is not healthy.” A spokeswoman for the school referred questions to the school district. Ed Hightower, the superintendent, did not return a call seeking comment.

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