“A lot of times with crisis situations, you don’t see the response right away. It comes later,” Angela Bratcher, a clinical director at Great Circle, a St. Louis-based behavioral health organization, told USA Today.
In anticipation of anxieties caused by the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and subsequent protests, Great Circle will help the district double its counseling staff as students start their first day of school on Monday. The district, which had one counselor for each of its 24 schools, is adding another 25 from Great Circle, USA Today reported.
Classes were supposed to start Aug. 14, but were postponed out of fear of violence. Since then, the community has pulled together. A small army of teachers has been tutoring some students in a makeshift school at a local library, and a handful of elementary schools have been providing free lunches to students who need them, according to the New York Times.
On Monday, about a dozen students walked through the doors of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library, where a small group of teachers volunteered to help them keep up with their studies. That number grew to more than 160 students on Thursday, according to news reports.
“We’ve essentially taken over the library,” acting principal Antona Smith told NBC News. The volunteers have been teaching math, writing and literature. “They’re having full academics and teachers are coming with full curricula ready to teach.”
The free tutoring will continue on Friday, KMOV-TV reported. So will the free lunches.
Smith said the library has been a safe space this week for children in Ferguson.
“We don’t talk about it, when they’re in here this is safe quiet space,” she told NBC News. She said volunteers will pull children aside when they get upset but most seem to enjoy being in the makeshift classroom. “It is wonderful. I’m looking at smiles and laughter, that’s what’s going on.”
But, at some point, the subject will come up.
“They’re surrounded by what’s going on out here. Some of them have had the tear gas fumes in their homes. So we’re trying to make this just a welcoming safe space,” one teacher told KMOV.