*The Jennings School District in Missouri, which includes the eastern edge of Ferguson, will not hold school Monday and Tuesday in expectation that a grand jury will announce its decision this weekend on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson.
Parents in the Jennings district will receive automated calls this afternoon notifying them that schools will be closed, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson said.
“With the heightened anxiety and activity, we thought it would be better for students and staff to extend the holiday at this point,” she said.
The decision to close schools was not based on any notification from law enforcement that an announcement is imminent, Anderson went on to say. Once the decision becomes public, many are bracing for the possibility of volatile protests, which have been largely peaceful since Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown three months ago. Anderson wanted to give parents as much time as possible to figure out child-care arrangements for next week.
School district representatives from several north St. Louis County districts say they’ve been requested by law enforcement to close for two days immediately after the announcement to keep buses and excess traffic off streets in the event of unrest.
Children in Jennings don’t have bus service. Most of them walk, making Anderson even more concerned for their safety.
On Thursday, Anderson said a group of adults claiming to be from Chicago were passing out literature to students as they walked home along Cozens Avenue. The street has an elementary school, the junior high and high school.
The fliers were “encouraging students to be disruptive and encouraging them to think of police as pigs,” Anderson said. “That was disturbing.”
Jennings is the first of what could be several school districts to cancel school, giving students and staff a week-long Thanksgiving break. Children who live in Ferguson and attend public school go to one of four districts — Jennings, Hazelwood, Riverview Gardens, or Ferguson-Florissant.
“At the present time, we have not made a similar decision,” said Jana Shortt, spokeswoman for Ferguson-Florissant schools. “The problem right now is, we don’t even know an announcement is coming.”
That uncertainty has increased anxieties in schools throughout the region, but particularly those nearest the unrest.
“For adults, there’s as great — if not greater — anxiety,” Anderson said. “They’re thinking a lot about how to support kids, how to make sure everything is in place” for the grand jury decision.
Even with no school, meals will be provided to children in need on Monday and Tuesday from 8 to 10 a.m., and lunch from noon to 1 p.m. at Jennings High School and Fairview Elementary School.