Schools brace for questions, tears over bombings

Students will have a lot of help available when they return to classes. Above, people attended a vigil in Boston Sunday.
Michael Reynolds/EPA
Students will have a lot of help available when they return to classes. Above, people attended a vigil in Boston Sunday.

When public schools reopen Monday for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings, Cambridge will be grappling with dual sorrows.

Several of the city’s teachers were injured in the blasts, according to school officials, and both suspected bombers — Tamerlan­ Tsarnaev, 26, who died Friday after a shoot-out with police, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was hospitalized after his capture — graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

“I think the overwhelming feeling is just of confusion,” said Samuel Gebru, 21, a 2009 graduate who is trying to organize a rally with other alumni and students to support the community. “We are surprised. We are hurt.”


Across Greater Boston, students returning from April vacation will continue to feel the aftershocks of the April 15 attack. Schools in Dorchester and Medford are mourning two victims who died, an 8-year-old pupil and a 29-year-old graduate. At other schools, teachers and staff will be absent because they were injured by bombs or shrapnel.

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School officials said they are trying to be as prepared as possible to help children and staff after an emotional week off.

“We don’t quite know the connections that students and staff have to the events,” said Lee McGuire, spokesman for Boston’s public schools. “It will be good to have students back in class this week, but it will be important to have the right staff in place.”

Boston officials will pay special attention to Snowden International School on Newbury Street, just around the corner from the Marathon finish line, where the bombs exploded a week ago, McGuire said.

Students returning to Snowden are likely to see police barricades, flowers, and memorials to the bombing victims and a nearby athletic store covered with chalk messages of prayers and support. For many of these students it will be the first time they have been near the scene of the bombings, McGuire said.


Boston’s school counselors have also been helping the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester this past week, where 8-year-old bombing victim Martin Richard attended school, McGuire said.

The school was not releasing any details about how it is handling its first day back, a spokesman said.

Boston Superintendent Carol R. Johnson called families throughout the city Sunday night to welcome them back from the break, offer them resources on how to talk to their children about the events, and remind them that school can be a welcome return to the normal.

“We hope your family is safe and well and that you are looking forward to returning to a normal schedule tomorrow, just as we are,” Johnson said in her recorded remarks. “We know this last week has been difficult and full of many emotions for students as well as adults.”

Johnson said some schools may hold a moment of silence Monday to commemorate the one-week anniversary of the bombings “and also to thank the many first responders and everyday heroes who helped us all get through.”


The school district will have its own counselors fanned out throughout the system and will have mental health clinicians from the community on standby to provide additional resources if needed, McGuire said.

‘I think we should try to keep a sense of normalcy. It will be important not to overdo it at this point.’

In Medford, residents have been in mourning since news broke that Krystle Campbell, 29, was among the three people killed in the bombing. Campbell was a graduate of Medford’s public schools, and while students settle into their classrooms and routines Monday, the community will be saying farewell to her with a funeral Mass.

Medford’s schools superintendent, Roy Belson, said the district will have counselors on hand at the schools, where security had already been tightened in response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings in December.

“Our goal is always to maintain an environment that is conducive to learning, not one that looks like an armed camp, unless we know of something that is imminent,” Belson said Sunday afternoon after returning from Campbell’s wake. “We’re in pretty good shape.”

Medford High School will hold a moment of silence on Monday, and staff will meet in the coming days to plan a way to honor Campbell.

“We want to come up with something that is respectful and poignant and represents how we feel,” said John Perella, the high school headmaster.

In Watertown, where the manhunt for the suspected bombers ended Friday after gunfire and an hours-long shutdown of the city, counselors will be available. But Mark Sideris, a School Committee member, said he hopes students and staff will be able to return to their routines.

“I think everything is all clear and ready to go. I think we should try to keep a sense of normalcy,” Sideris said. “It will be important not to overdo it at this point.”

But in Cambridge, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev graduated two years ago, normalcy might be elusive this week.

“It’s still a pretty challenging time for students and staff,” said a Cambridge School Committee member, Patty Nolan. “There’s a sense of confusion.”

Cambridge police will be at the high school on Monday to ensure the safety of the students and to protect their privacy as they return to school in the media spotlight, Nolan said.

The school day at Rindge will begin with a reflective activity so students can think about and discuss how they are feeling about the tragedy, said Jeffrey M. Young, Cambridge’s superintendent. And Principal Damon Smith will hold assemblies at each grade level to tell students about support available to them and to take questions.

“There may be some processing of feelings — these are a bunch of teenagers so we really don’t know,” Young said.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin off and on for about a year, but his younger brother made a bigger imprint on the school, spending about three years, Young said.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev earned good grades, was wrestling team captain, and was seen as outgoing. The brothers, both ethnic Chechens, would have blended in at the school, known for its diversity. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not isolated, Young said.

“Personally, I wondered how someone who grew up in a place like this could end up in a place like that because this is such a welcoming community,” he said. “This was someone who was integrated into the life of the school and the community, so it was stunning.”

Globe correspondent Jaclyn Reiss­ contributed to this report. Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at Lisa Kocian­ can be reached at ­