Crisis teams are available to help students and staff this week at Neuqua Valley High School even as DeKalb authorities work to identify human remains found Saturday night near the Northern Illinois University campus.
Authorities fear they have found Antinette "Toni" Keller, an 18-year-old from Plainfield who graduated from the Naperville high school.
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Principal Bob McBride sent a note to the Neuqua community indicating crisis teams are on hand to assist anyone at the school affected by the feared loss.
Keller, a freshman art major, last was seen about noon Oct. 14 when she told friends she was going for a walk through Prairie Park, south of the NIU campus. This is the second straight week crisis teams have been deployed at Neuqua. On Oct. 18 the school mourned the loss of 16-year-old Kyle Zuleg, who was killed when a tree branch fell on him during a family camping trip.
"Our sympathies and thoughts go out to Toni Keller's parents, family and friends in this difficult hour, and we are sorry to see another (Neuqua) family suffer such a loss," McBride said in an e-mail Monday. "We are particularly concerned about students and staff who worked with (Toni) in art, music and adventure studies, as these were particular interests of hers while at (Neuqua)."
McBride said concerns about the missing woman are unique because many of Keller's former high school classmates are now off campus and spread far and wide. He said he fears several of her teachers may have a harder time coping with the possible loss.
"Toni took three years of symphony orchestra with one teacher and a full year of art with one particular teacher," he said. "She happened to be a student with very particular niches in the school, and faculty in those departments will likely be feeling it the most."
In addition to supporting those closely affected by the case, McBride said the school will use this as an opportunity to work with all its students on the nature of grief and how to discuss loss.
"As I did last week, I would encourage parents to talk to their children about loss," he said. "Questions about grief and how to react to a loss in our community are normal and important. At school, we will keep the door open to these discussions."
Grief counselors will be available to both faculty and staff throughout the week or as more information becomes available.
"We're moving forward in almost exactly in same pattern as we did last week," he said. "We're waiting to see what develops just like everyone else."