Dear North Colonie Families,
Our hearts are heavy with the loss of our teacher and dear friend, Peter Mravlja. This will take time to process and an effort to be there for one another. The district is prepared to respond to the needs of our students, staff and families.
Coach Peter Mravlja was a veteran physical education teacher and beloved member of the Southgate Elementary School community. We recognize that Monday will be a hard day for all those who loved Coach Mravlja, and we are planning age-appropriate supports for all of our K-12 students who may be impacted by this sudden loss.
With guidance from our partners at The Community Hospice, and with the assistance of our own mental health staff, we will use an approach at a developmentally appropriate level when speaking with our students. We will be honest and open with your children about Coach Mravlja’s death. We understand they may experience any number of feelings. Counselors will be available to help students process any feelings that may arise. It is most important that students know that any feeling they have is accepted, and that they can trust in the adults around them.
We will not be discussing anything related to the afterlife or any specific religious belief or ritual, which is something that we know is personal to each family.
This resource provides information that will let you know what to expect of your child’s grief. It may also help you respond to something that could evoke an emotional reaction.
This longer form resource from the National Institutes of Health may also be helpful to families looking for additional information to help guide conversations about death and grieving with your children.
Sadness, tears, anger, and physical symptoms of grief are all normal, as is shock. These are all indicators of loss. Because Southgate Elementary school is such a compassionate community, we will get through this extremely difficult time together.
The district crisis team developed specific plans for bereavement intervention.
Southgate Elementary Students, grades K-6
- District psychologists, social workers, and counselors will each be assigned classrooms for visitations. They will join with the classroom teacher to speak with the students and answer questions in an age-appropriate way.
- Any students who are having difficulty processing the information or need further support will be invited to join counselors in a separate location for individualized attention.
- Students who have physical education as a special on their schedule on Monday and Tuesday will be supported by another physical education teacher and a designated counselor.
- Remote K-6 Southgate students will be grouped for specially scheduled morning meetings like this: K-1, 2-3, and 4-6. They will hear from Principal Dedrick and then be joined by a member of the counseling staff who will help students process the information.
- Should any child need more individualized support, parents may use this open link where their child can have immediate access to the counselor.
- Our remote K-6 teachers also have the open link, so if they notice any student struggling throughout the day, they can help the student access the counselor just as they would send students to the counselor if the students were in person.
Former Southgate Students, grades 7-8
- We recognize that our junior high students may also be feeling this loss. All of our junior high teachers have been asked to monitor students closely, and any student who is in need of support will be invited to the counseling center.
- Our counseling center will be staffed by our four hall counselors and our student assistance counselor who will be available all day to help students.
- Remote 7-8 students will also have access to support should they need it. Using this link, students will be able to meet in real time with one of three school psychologists who will be available to students all day. Our remote 7th and 8th grade teachers also have this link, so if they see a student who is struggling they are able to provide them with the link to receive immediate help, just as they would send students to the counseling center if the students were in person.
Former Southgate Students, grades 9-12
- The high school students in the SOUTH cohort are the vast majority of students who would have attended Southgate Elementary. The SOUTH cohort is remote tomorrow, but our high school counselors stand ready to support those students remotely tomorrow. Students or families are asked to email their counselors or use this link for immediate access to our school psychologist.
- If any students would prefer to come into school for support, they are welcomed to do so. Please contact the school at 518-785-5511 and ask for the guidance department to set up a time to come in and meet with a counselor.
- In addition, on Tuesday, our counseling center will be fully staffed if students would prefer to process their feelings when they are in person for school.
Everyone grieves in their own way. As we work toward healing, teachers, counselors, and school administrators will be available for students and parents in the coming days and weeks. Please reach out to your building counselor or school principal if you need immediate assistance or would like more resources.
D. Joseph Corr
Superintendent of Schools