By Mark Rountree
Principal Trent Swanson said he felt a special need to attend Thursday night’s junior high game against Ponca City. The game was one day after a Stillwater Junior High School student died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot in a school hallway.
“It is absolutely very important for the students to see me and the teachers at the games,” said Swanson. “That’s a big part of building relationships with the kids.”
Swanson told his staff Thursday that administrators, teachers and staff need to focus on getting back to a sense of normalcy after the shocking death of 13-year-old eighth-grader Cade Poulos.
Funeral services for Poulos has been set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Life Church in Stillwater. Funeral service directors indicated Thursday that seating capacity of the church could be an issue with the high number of people expected to attend the service.
Kellee Brown, the school district’s public information officer, said crisis counselors talked to approximately 200 students on Thursday.
Counselors will be at the junior high school until it is determined that their presence is no longer needed, she said.
Students, Swanson said, were allowed to visit the school library at any time during the day to sign banners for Poulos and the family. Students also were allowed to visit vacant classrooms where they could meet individually with counselors.
On Friday, Swanson said students would only be allowed to go to the library to sign a banner before school, during lunch and after school.
“We are trying to ease our way back into a normal schedule,” he said.
Three junior high students organized a school fundraiser for the Poulos family, Swanson said. Students collected small amounts of money in a decorated white bucket during the lunch period. Whatever money collected will be given to the Poulos family.
“I thought that was really cool,” Swanson said.
Brown said in light of Wednesday’s events, “we’re all being extra cautious.”
On Thursday, at approximately 3:20 p.m., a Stillwater school bus driver reported seeing a white male, appearing to be junior high school age, carrying what the driver believed was a hand gun in his waist band as he was walking near Skyline Elementary School. Brown said the bus driver notified Matt Parsel, the district director of transportation, then called 911 to report the incident to police. Brown said the male walking on the street was not on school property and the bus driver was unable to identify him.
Stillwater Police Department Communications Supervisor William Bowen said officers saturated the area and found no one matching the description given by the bus driver.
School officials reported 698 of 767 students returned to class a day after the fatal shooting.
“This number speaks volumes regarding the trust that parents and students have regarding the safety of their children in Stillwater schools,” said school Superintendent Ann Caine.
A memorial fund has been established at Stillwater National Bank to help the Poulos family with expenses.
“We just want to help them out in any way to make this easier for them,” said Ruth Ann Sirbaugh, a family friend who set up the memorial fund. “They are a very loving family, very family-centered, and they are just devastated by this.”