School Year Begins Without Missing Cousins, New Dismissal Policy in Place
By Jill Kasparie and Addison Speck, Reporters
EVANSDALE, Iowa – The start of the school year in the Waterloo district won’t be the same without missing cousins, Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins.
Thursday is the first day kids will walk into their classrooms without their friends. Elizabeth would be attending Poyner Elementary in Evansdale and Lyric would be going to Kingsley Elementary in Waterloo.
The two cousins disappeared while riding bike on July 13. Investigators searched in and around Meyers Lake where they found the girls' bikes. The FBI now considers the case an abduction, and has said it has evidence the girls are still alive.
Teachers know it will be a tough start to the year. Classroom doors at Poyner have unique pink ribbons to honor the two missing girls. Outside the building, there’s also a sea of pink ribbons.
“We want to help kids and adults deal with that and also I think it’s important for kids to know and teachers to know that they are not in this by themselves. That we’re trying to be a part of a larger community that is going to support each other, help each other for as long as it takes,” Waterloo Community School District’s Sharon Miller said.
District leaders said there would be a change this school year after the abduction case. Dismissal procedures at the Evansdale elementary will be different. Teachers and staff are tightening up the policy.
"That's always been a priority to have those arrival and dismissal procedures be as safe and secure as possible, but this certainly raises everybody's awareness about it,” Miller said.
Staff members will use a new system that includes the use of numbers, hand-held radios and more one on one teacher contact as students leave the building. Miller said the district also has a similar pick-up policy in place at Kingsley Elementary.
On Thursday, TV9 asked parents waiting to pick up their students what they thought of the new policy. "I do feel it's a good system to have because it makes me feel better that they are looking out for my kids," said Courtney Ilax. "I think it's a good idea and I am glad their concerned about the kids safety," said Wendy Bass.
Many parents said it's slower but safer, and for a community coping with two missing girls, the sense of security is worth the wait. "It's just tough on a time crunch, but for the safety of the kids, I would much rather know my daughters coming to me and not someone else," added Rick Edwards.
Teachers have also been meeting to discuss the proper way of handling tough questions from students as they cope with the disappearance.
“It’s hard, there’s not one size fits all, it’s important to listen to kids and acknowledge their concerns, their fears,” Miller said.
The district said counselors are available for students, if needed during the school year.
Investigators continue to search for clues about the Black Hawk County girls. If you have any information, call the tip line at 319-232-6682.
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