Piketon Schools coping with loss

Principal says schools attempting to get back to normal

By Patricia Beech

As the residents of Pike County struggled to cope last week with the slayings of eight members of a local family, Piketon High School prepared to address the needs of students in the aftermath of the grisly murders.

Christopher Rhoden Jr., who was among the dead, was a ninth-grade student at the school.

A statement from Superintendent Dr. Todd A. Burkitt called Rhoden a diligent worker who was very loyal to his family. “We are very saddened about the loss of Chris and his family,” Burkitt said.

According to Principal Jeff Reuter, when the school opened Monday, counselors, clergy, and grief experts were on hand to help students deal with the unimaginable tragedy.

“We had fifteen grief counselors ready to go,” he said, “But by 10-10:30 a.m. it was apparent that most of the kids were peer- counseling each other inside the classrooms, with the teachers, and among themselves. It was a very quiet atmosphere.”

State testing, which was canceled Friday and Monday, resumed Tuesday. “We’re doing everything we can to get back to business as usual,” said Reuter , “The kids, for the most part are getting back to where they were before Friday.”

Neighboring school districts also stepped up to share resources with the school. “Because we’re a small school district in southern Ohio, we have to rely on others, especially with an event like this,” said Burkitt, “Our staff provided most of the conversations with the students, but having people here who are trained in dealing with the grief process was really helpful.

Burkitt said the district has been in contact with local law enforcement, and has been assured that no direct threat was ever made toward the district. Law enforcement asked them to proceed with school as usual.

Funeral services for Christopher Rhoden, Jr. and his family will be held on Tuesday, May 3 at noon at the Dry Run Church of Christ on SR 73/104.

Funds to help the family with funeral expenses may be donated at any Fifth Third Bank, at First State Bank in Peebles, or sent directly to the Roger W. Davis Funeral Home at 1310 3rd St., West Portsmouth, Ohio 45663.