Thunder Bay

Returning to 'normalcy' at Hammarskjold High School

Things are slowly returning to normal at Thunder Bay, Ont.'s Hammarskjold High School, with students and staff recovering after the school was shut down a dozen times this semester due to anonymous threats, the principal said Thursday.

School closed a dozen times this semester due to anonymous threats

Staff at Hammarskjold High School donated $1,000 raised through t-shirt sales to a student fund on Thursday, May 16. The money will go toward an event for students, to be held later this school year. (CBC News)

Things are slowly returning to normal at Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay, Ont., with students and staff recovering after the school was shut down a dozen times this semester due to anonymous threats, the principal said Thursday.

The threats stopped in mid-April after two students were arrested and charged. They had been occurring since mid-February.

"Students are quite resilient, and most of them have bounced back," said Derek DiBlasio, school principal. "There are still some students that we're supporting in terms of helping with getting back to that normalcy piece, but it's definitely getting better now."

DiBlasio said St. John Ambulance has been supporting the staff and students through its therapy pet program, and social workers have been brought in to the school as well.

"We're doing lunch hour programming for students for catch-up," he said. "We call it Power Hour, so students, if they want to get extra help in math and science, that's been our focus. We have also done some after-school tutoring."

"Ultimately, we want the students to know that if they need extra support and time, we have that."

Emily Prpic, a Grade 12 student at the school, said the measures have helped students make up for lost time.

"Guidance and administration have been working super hard to make sure that we can meet all of our deadlines for university acceptances," she said. "So I had no issues there, and I don't think any of my peers did as well. They were really good, making sure everything was done on time."

Grade 11 student Adam Luoma, too, said things are good at the school.

"I think it was maybe because we came from such a sad, dark place, that finally normal feels almost better than what it used to be," he said. "The school feels better than it's ever been."

Staff raise funds for students

Staff, too, are doing their part. On Thursday, staff donated $1,000 raised through t-shirt sales to a special fund that will be used to support students at the school.

"I just thought it was important to, first of all, help raise everyone's spirits, and also just emphasize how proud we are about Hammarskjold," said teacher Jen Smith. "So, I organized the production of these t-shirts, and decided to use the money raised through these t-shirts to benefit our students."

A final decision on how to spend the money hasn't yet been made. Smith said possibilities include bringing in a guest speaker to talk about resiliency or stress management.

"It will be used to benefit all students of Hammarskjold," she said.

Currently, the t-shirts are only available to staff, but Smith said they may be made available to students and the public, as well.

And anyone interested in donating to the student fund can do so by contacting Smith or DiBlasio at Hammarskjold, she said.