The tragic loss of three Grade 12 students killed in a single-vehicle accident last month sent shock waves rippling through the classrooms of École Kelowna Senior Secondary (KSS).
But helping the teachers, school administrators and students face the stark reality of what had happened has been the outpouring of support from the community, says KSS principal Troy White.
Troy White was joined by KSS vice-principals Christey Hughes, Robbie Franklin and Ryan Mansley via Zoom at the board of education meeting Wednesday (June 9) to be recognized for their leadership in guiding the school through a difficult emotional process.
White told trustees while the sentiment was appreciated, he said it was truly the school community within the school which helped lift each other through the terrible sense of loss, coupled by the support of other schools.
He said all three students were very intertwined in the school and their loss was felt very deeply by many students and staff.
He said teachers only learned of the loss 15 minutes before classes started and quickly had to prepare to face the prospect of telling their students what had happened.
What they had to relate was just before midnight on Tuesday, May 25, a single vehicle car crash near the intersection of Cook road and Gordon Drive had claimed the lives of the three students – two 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old all due to graduate this month.
“But to see the support from other schools and from our own staff, our teachers, to help students get through this was amazing,” he said.
White added the school district critical response team also played a critical support role providing backup support for staff and students.
Hughes said the school is still processing and grieving over the incident, but noted the leadership of White -” he is our rock, our go-to person for our team of four” – and support of everyone else connected with the school, from the custodial staff to the office receptionists.
“We are all learning from each other as we continue to get through a pandemic year, the loss of the Indigenous students revealed in Kamloops and now most recently the Muslim family in Ontario who were lost,” Hughes said.
“This has been a year for all of us.”
Mansley noted the support of school counsellors already feeling the stress of the pandemic.
“They are already feeling worn out by this point and then having to respond to this trauma. They have done an amazing job,” he said.
Franklin reiterated White’s sentiments of the support shown for the school faced with such difficult circumstances.
“I am humbled for sure by that,” he added.
Board of education chair Moyra Baxter said the school district’s thoughts and condolences are with the families and friends of the three students who lost their lives.
“KSS is a big school but regardless of the size, there is a tremendous sense of family at that school and all the staff are to be commended for that,” Baxter said.
“You will come through this and we need to thank everyone for that. Let’s just hope next year will be a better year for everyone.”