Hi All:

As we are all aware, our school community is gradually coping with the heartbreaking passing of Christopher Alfaro Urquia.  While there are few words to explain this nightmare, the teachers and staff are doing an outstanding job supporting the students and each other during a very difficult time.  In addition, Mrs. Harris and her team have been on site, and the Student Services professionals are providing important assistance for children and adults alike. We also have received generous offers of support from the staff members and PTA leadership, and the Board of Education will be working with Christopher’s family to coordinate those efforts.

There is no question that an inexplicable tragedy such as this stimulates a great deal of heartache and concern, as well as a natural desire for information.  This search for answers, which has manifested throughout the district, is especially pronounced at Birchwood.  Mr. Ciccarelli, Mrs. Michaelian and their team have been doing a great job reassuring the parents that we had no new information of concern and are operating under the guidance that the school was safe for students and staff.  Fortunately, Birchwood parents have a great deal of faith in the leaders of their learning family, and the team is doing as best they can to provide smooth school days for students and staff alike.

In an effort to keep abreast of the most recent information, I had an early morning phone conference with our School Doctor, Jack Gefkin.  Dr. Gefkin told me that he had spoken with the Medical Examiner earlier today, and there was no new information that pointed to any type of public health concern.  Of course, Dr. Gefkin will continue to follow up, but this information supports the conclusions forwarded during our Friday conference call with the Board of Health.  Dr. Gefkin plans on maintaining contact with the Medical Examiner, and we will most certainly be speaking with the Board of Health each day, but at this point, we are only hearing that “there is no public health concern.”

I realize that this horrific situation has shaken our community to its core, and people are looking for answers to explain an unthinkable tragedy.  There is also a very reasonable and understandable fear regarding the unknown as people worry for the safety of their family and friends.  While we recognize these realities, our team can only communicate the information that we receive from medical experts at both the Board of Health and Medical Examiner levels.  It is also important to understand that we are only entitled to receive an individual’s health-related information when there is some type of public danger or concern.  With that said, my experience has been that the Board of Health leadership is usually incredibly prompt and forthcoming with that information and has a reputation of erring on the side of caution when it comes to public schools.

Rest assured that we will continue to share anything that the medical experts deem necessary or that the family asks we communicate to the public. You can trust that you will know what I know, and the lines of communication will always be open.

In the meantime, the South Huntington family will offer Christopher’s family our love, and our district team will certainly offer to coordinate the efforts of support, or work through any structure that makes the family most comfortable.

Thank you all for your time, and please keep Christopher and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Dave Bennardo