Fox Lake-area schools reopen Thursday

Four Fox Lake-area school districts have decided to reopen their schools to students Thursday after consulting with the Lake County Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement officials.

The decision was collectively made by Grant High School District 124, Fox Lake District 114, Gavin District 37 and Big Hollow District 38, according to District 114 Superintendent John Donnellan.

"There may be a police presence in school tomorrow," said a statement to parents issued late Wednesday afternoon by Donnellan. "This is not necessary from a safety perspective, but rather law enforcement and school officials wish for students to feel safe upon their return."

The president of the Parent Teacher Association in District 114 said she and fellow parents supported the decision to keep schools closed Wednesday amid an ongoing search for three suspects in a police officer's slaying.

And Stephanie Altergott said she was very happy with the way teachers and administrators handled Tuesday's soft lockdown - sending her 3-year-old daughter home with a smile on her face after a scheduled 3-hour day unexpectedly became an 8-hour one.

"I can't thank them enough for keeping the kids safe yesterday," the Fox Lake mom said. "I felt they were almost safer at school than at home. Yes, it's nerve-wracking, but I didn't question their safety or that they were in good hands."

Altergott said she respects the judgment call of those making the decision. She added that she hasn't heard from anyone questioning the decision or complaining about the inconvenience of keeping students home.

Jacinda Collins, president of the Parents' Association at St. Bede Catholic School in Ingleside, said she also was pleased by school administrators' decision to cancel classes Wednesday.

"While I cannot speak for every parent, I personally am very proud of our St. Bede leaders and other school/community leaders on making such a strong decision to put us on immediate lockdown yesterday and to keep our children home today," Collins wrote in an email. "My only concern was if it scared the children in any way, but the teachers were amazing and kept them very occupied during all of that."

Donnellan said the decision to close schools Wednesday was agreed upon at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Word went out to parents immediately after.

At least a portion of each district is within the search area police focused on Tuesday while trying to locate three suspects in the fatal shooting of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.

Grant High School was in a full lockdown Tuesday from the time the manhunt began until a coordinated release of students could be made at the end of the school day. District 124 Superintendent Christine Sefcik addressed the factors involved in Tuesday's and Wednesday's decisions in a written statement.

"The police presence at school yesterday was outstanding and appreciated," Sefcik wrote. "As school was already in session yesterday when this tragic incident occurred, officers provided a great deal of support to assist us in getting every student home safely. Not being in session today allows students to remain home and safe, not traveling to and from school, while the area continues to be secured. Also important, law enforcement can dedicate officers that may have been here during the school day to the ongoing investigation."

St. Bede Catholic School's decision to close was made separately from that of the four public school districts. Administrators at the school could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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  Big Hollow Elemementary School students exit busses after classes resumed Thursday in Ingleside. Schools have been closed in the Fox Lake area since Tuesday following the shooting of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz. Steve Lundy/
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