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October 24, 2013

Town tries to cope with murder of teacher

DANVERS — Most children will return to classes today, but Danvers High School will remain closed as the community deals with the loss of a popular young teacher and the arrest of a student charged with her murder.

“Although classroom instruction will continue,” Superintendent Lisa Dana said in a message to parents, “I anticipate that the next few days will be particularly difficult.”

Danvers High will be open to students and families from 10 a.m. to noon today for those wishing to see a counselor or grief specialist. There will be an informational meeting for high school parents at 6:30 p.m. in the field house. Danvers police Chief Neil Ouellette said a determination will be made tonight as to whether the high school will open tomorrow.

Dana would not take calls from a reporter.

Town Manager Wayne Marquis said the events have been overwhelming.

“You process it one small step at a time,” he said. “The enormity of it you can’t swallow all at once.”

Marquis said the town has a strong group of school officials. At present, the focus is on people, he said, starting with the family of the victim, math teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover, then moving out to students and parents.

Administrators met with the high school staff yesterday at Smith School to provide what information they had, to give staff an opportunity to process what happened and to be with one another. Dana and Susan Ambrozavitch, who is both the high school principal and assistant superintendent, did a good job speaking with staff, and counselors were on hand, Marquis said.

Students, too, were reeling.

Danvers High senior Colin Butler woke to the news from his friends yesterday morning that school was canceled because his favorite math teacher had been killed — and the suspect was a 14-year-old student Butler passed by every day in the corridor.

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