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updated: 5/30/2012 7:23 PM

School, community respond to drowning death of Elgin boy

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The crisis response team at Elgin Area School District U-46 sprang into action this week in response to the death of one of its elementary students.

Jesus Gonzalez, 9, of Elgin, drowned Sunday in Jericho Lake at Jericho Lake Park in Montgomery.

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The boy was swimming with his siblings in the 20-acre lake -- used mostly for fishing and boating -- when he went missing. Several local police and fire departments responded and Jesus was found in the water about 45 minutes after his family called 911, according to the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District.

John Heiderscheidt, safety coordinator at U-46, said the crisis response team was at Jesus' elementary school Tuesday as well as the middle school of his older siblings to provide support to students and staff members in need. Social workers in other U-46 schools were told to watch for grieving students who may have known Jesus and offer services there as well.

"Our goal is to help them with their feelings and emotions and help them the best we can to move forward and cope with the loss," Heiderscheidt said.

Letters went home to parents Tuesday alerting them to Jesus' death and the fact that students were notified, Heiderscheidt said.

The name of Jesus' school was being withheld Wednesday as students and staff members processed the tragedy.

There are only two more days of school for U-46, but Heiderscheidt said normally the crisis teams remain in place as long as possible and as long as needed.

"The goal is to help folks -- students, staff members -- return to some normal functioning after experiencing grief and loss," he said.

Students will have the opportunity to draw pictures and write letters to Jesus or place something of remembrance on a temporary memorial to the boy. Heiderscheidt said sometimes that memorial is established somewhere in the community and sometimes in the school but the mementos are given to the family once they are taken down.

Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Wait Ross Allanson Funeral Home, 51 Center St., in Elgin.

A mass will be celebrated for Jesus at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph Parish, 272 Division St., in Elgin, after which he will be buried in Bluff City Cemetery.

His family could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Kane County coroner's office conducted an autopsy Tuesday, indicating the preliminary cause of death was drowning. Several police and fire agencies, along with the coroner, continue to collaborate in the ongoing investigation.

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