DANVERS — Danvers High students returned to their classes Friday for the first time since the community suffered the unimaginable, the slaying of a popular young math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, allegedly at the hands of one of her 14-year-old students.
Some students welcomed the return to routine, but when asked if the day was a normal school day, they said it was anything but.
“No, a lot of cries and hugs. It was so sad,” said sophomore Samantha Granito. “Being all together was nice, but it’s still really hard.”
Superintendent Lisa Dana said in an email, “Today was another positive step in the healing process for the DHS community.”
Students wore blue and white for a Spirit Day held to recognize Ritzer. They gathered in assemblies and went to all their classes, and some posted messages to Ritzer on her classroom door, using sticky notes, students said.
Ninth- and 10th-graders met with teachers and administrators first thing in the morning in the auditorium, followed by a meeting with juniors and seniors, Principal/Assistant Superintendent Sue Ambrozavitch said in an email. Grief counselors were at the school, as were additional police officers.
“We met with a lot of classes, but there was a lot of grieving,” said freshman Zachary Macadam, 14. “... We just wanted to just grieve and just deal with the fact that a beloved teacher is gone.”
Police have charged Danvers High freshman Philip Chism with murder in Ritzer’s death. She is believed to have been killed sometime after school on Tuesday. Her body was found in a wooded area behind the school in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
All Danvers schools were closed Wednesday, and Danvers High School was closed Thursday, as well, except for grief counseling in the morning.
Friday, Ritzer’s classroom was left open for students who wanted to visit. Sophomore McKenzie Plaza read a text she sent to her mother during the school day about what it was like to go to her teacher’s classroom: