Waukesha students return to class for first time since parade tragedy

WAUKESHA, Wis. – Waukesha students returned to the classroom Monday for the first time since an SUV driver struck and killed six people and injured dozens more at a parade on November 21.

Officials said students received a “soft start,” and staff read a message at the start of the day.

The district has about 75 counselors and psychologists on hand to help students. Many of those staff members will stay in Waukesha through the end of the year.

“Things will strike a memory,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Joe Koch said. “We’re going to want to make sure that we’re there and able to support kids through the remainder of our school year.

The Elmbrook, Oconomowoc, and Pewaukee school districts have all provided staff to support Waukesha.

“We do have the ability to expand there if needed,” Koch said. “There’s definitely healing that comes by being together.”

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Officials did not know exactly how many students were participating in the parade, but about 250 students attended counseling sessions Monday.

“We have kids with a variety level of need and injury that they experienced,” Koch said. “We’ll be working through those plans with families in the days ahead to make sure those kids can access their education and support when they’re ready.”

Superintendent Dr. James Sebert told reporters Monday that staff gathered on the same afternoon of the tragedy to form an action plan.

“[It’s] Something that you never think you will have to hear or deal with,” Sebert said. “What we are grateful for is the way the community has really come together.

The district has received support from across the community and southeast Wisconsin.

“If we can harness the type of truly deep collaboration we’re seeing right now in the community, I think there are very bright days ahead,” Sebert said.

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Sebert also praised the efforts of the district’s counseling staff.

“Day in, day out we see their brilliance,” Sebert said. “They are the ones that are rock solid in terms of helping kids and helping adults through these kinds of horrific events.”