June 9, 2014

Letter for Sir Winston Churchill PS families regarding Ardglen fire

The following letter was distributed to students at Sir Winston Churchill Public School on June 9, 2014.

Dear Sir Winston Churchill Families:
It is with great sadness that I write this letter to inform you of the death of one of our grade 4 students, Nicolas Gabriel—we knew him as Nick. He died as a result of a large fire in a row of townhouses on Ardglen Drive early Sunday morning.

Media have reported that 100 people have been left homeless and another 200 have been displaced from their homes. Some Sir Winston Churchill families are personally affected. If you or someone you know would like to make a donation to the Nicolas/Ardglen Trust, Regeneration Outreach Community has set up an online donation site at http://regenbrampton.com/. All funds received will go directly to support residents affected by the fire. You can reach Regeneration at 905-796-5888.
This tragedy has brought sadness to the students and staff at our school. We will visit classrooms tomorrow to share the news with students. Members of the Peel District School Board’s Critical Incident Response Team are at our school today and will be here tomorrow to support Nick’s classmates, as well as other students and staff. The counsellors will remain at Sir Winston Churchill for as long as they are needed.
Nick’s death is deeply felt by everyone at the school. He was extremely popular with his classmates and showed consistent and genuine care for all those around him. When his class was asked who should win awards at assemblies, Nick was always their top choice. He won every “GREAT” award at assemblies.  Nick was playful with his peers, always running and enjoying active games. He was well-loved by everyone at Sir Winston Churchill.
Even students who did not personally know him will also be affected by this tragedy. Here are some ways you can help your child deal with the grief and trauma:
  • Acknowledge the loss and the emotional upset.
  • Be available to your child. If you don't know the right thing to say, just listen. Acknowledge that we don't always have answers to why these things happen.
  • Provide a reassuring environment in which your child feels comfortable expressing his or her thoughts and feelings.
  • Encourage your child to experience the loss in the way that's most comfortable for him or her. Some children are open about their feelings, while others prefer not to talk about them or may only want to talk to their peers.
  • Share an experience you might have had with bereavement and what helped you cope.
  • Help your child understand that it's not helpful to engage in speculation and rumours.
  • Encourage your child to follow normal routines as much as possible. Offer him or her practical support—like helping with homework and catching up on assignments.
  • Acknowledge that there's no time limit on grieving.
  • Be aware of signs that your child may need additional support to deal with this loss. Warning signs include: prolonged physical/psychological distress (lack of appetite, sudden weight gain, persistent aches and pains, continued panic, anxiety, apathy or depression), becoming violent towards self or others, or decline in school performance. Please contact me if you would like to speak with a school social worker or psychologist.

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the fire on Ardglen Drive, and to Nick’s friends and loved ones. Our flag is at half-mast to honour his memory. A memorial table has been set up in the foyer where students, staff and community members can write messages of remembrance and condolence.

As always, please contact me at the school at 905-459-2320 if you have questions. Thank you for your support.

Kristin Bergen

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