As the St. Clair R-XIII School District continues to work on the healing and helping process and move forward in the wake of the three tragic deaths of high school students within the past couple of months, Superintendent Mike Murphy also is working with parents and others in the community to keep the lines of communication open.

The school district has been offering a series of forums at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays in the junior high school cafeteria. Meetings will continue this month and are scheduled on Dec. 4 and 11 with the 18th potentially added.

“The goal is to seek additional parent input while we also share information on programs we’re offering students as well as solutions,” Murphy told The Missourian. “We’re formulating discussion and brainstorming on how we can continue to move forward and keep the communications going.”

The three high school students — a freshmen, sophomore and junior — committed suicide in their homes on Sept. 28, Nov. 2 and Nov. 12. Investigations have revealed the deaths do not appear to be connected, but the tragedies sent shock waves through the school, the district and the St. Clair community.

Several hundred people showed up when the district scheduled its first forum on Nov. 13, the day after the third death.

“We’re ultimately seeking to ensure an open line of communication,” Murphy said this week. “And we will address situations as they arise. We’re trying to promote an increased level of parental and community involvement and encourage participation and involvement in this process.

“We’re working collaboratively with parents and students to assist as needed and continue to try to be as proactive as we can.”

Within the district schools, Murphy said the focus has been on sixth- through 12th-graders, or the junior and senior high schools.

“Things definitely have stabilized as far as attitudes and feelings,” the superintendent said. “We feel pretty good about where the high school is currently. Both students and staff there were affected directly, but we feel we’re continuing to move forward.”

Murphy said currently there is a staff member from the Crider Health Center stationed at both the junior and senior high throughout the school day on a full-time basis to assist students who still may be struggling. The counselors are being paid through assistance from the Franklin County Family Resource Center, which is funded through a quarter-cent sales tax in the county to provide its services.

They will remain until at least the Christmas break.

“We’re currently dealing with a very small percentage of students,” Murphy said of those still seeking the counseling. “The Crider Center is just one component of what they offer through the collection of the sales tax.”

A questionnaire completed by all high school students last month after the three deaths took place indicated there were 128 teens who needed to talk to someone “within a few days” about themselves or a friend. An additional 16 checked a box indicating they needed to talk to someone “immediately.”

Those 16 higher-risk students have received in-depth and continued counseling, Murphy said.

After the Christmas break, Murphy said the district’s focus will expand to include the two elementary schools and will continue to include the community as well.

“This is going to be a continuing effort,” he said. “Anyone who has an interest is welcome to participate. Our students remain involved in this process, and we’re going to expand that after the first of the year, and we want to keep the community involved and informed as well.”

Murphy said he plans to remind parents of the forums by issuing a phone blast early each week they are scheduled.

For more information, contact the central office at 636-629-3500.