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Amsterdam schools grapple with tragedy ‘beyond understanding’

Amsterdam schools grapple with tragedy ‘beyond understanding’

Victim Abby Jackson was a teacher at Lynch school
Amsterdam schools grapple with tragedy ‘beyond understanding’
Victims Adam and Abby Jackson are pictured with their daughters.
Photographer: Facebook post

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Abby Jackson and a colleague this year took charge of the Sunshine Club at Lynch Literacy Academy in Amsterdam, a group devoted to supporting other teachers experiencing difficult times.

On Monday, many of Jackson’s colleagues and friends met at the school to remember her and grieve her death in Saturday’s tragic limousine crash in Schoharie. Jackson, a reading teacher at Lynch, was among the 20 who died in the crash and one of four sisters killed as they celebrated the youngest’s 30th birthday.

“Abby was an infectious teacher,” said Rich Peters, a seventh-grade teacher whose classroom was across the hall from Jackson’s room. “She was always there for her colleagues.”

Peters, a co-president of the Amsterdam Teachers Association and a longtime teacher in the district, also had Jackson’s three sisters as students. Four daughters of Tom and Linda King – Abby, Amy Steenburg, Allison King and Mary Dyson – died in the Saturday crash. Jackson’s husband, Adam Jackson, also was killed in the crash. They leave behind two daughters: Archer, 4, and Elle, 16 months.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful family,” Peters said of the King sisters. “They were always in a great mood and always had a smile on their face. The little one, Amy, just lit up a room where she walked into a class … some students you never forget, and the King family is one I’ll never forget.”

Lynch hosted grief counselors for the families and friends of victims on Sunday and Monday. The start of school Tuesday, the first day back after a long weekend, will be delayed by an hour so teachers have a chance to compose themselves and prepare before students arrive in class.

Counselors and social workers will be at the school on Tuesday and teachers will be paying close attention to their students as they continue to process the extraordinary tragedy and the close connections between those who died and the Amsterdam school community.

“You just can’t fathom the severity of the tragedy, it’s hard to comprehend,” said Nellie Bush, president of Amsterdam school board and a former administrator in the district. “I know everyone will do whatever it is they have to do to support families and staff. That’s what we do here, we do whatever has to be done to give support to people.” Bush said the scale and specifics of the tragedy were “beyond understanding.”

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The Schoharie Central School District is also preparing for the return of students, readying counselors and social workers to be on the lookout for students who may be struggling with news of the fatal crash.

While the accident occurred about three miles down the road from the Schoharie school, none of the victims of the crash lived in the Schoharie County or were directly connected to the school district, Superintendent David Blanchard said. But the district will still be taking precautions to be attentive to students’ emotions. Blanchard said the school will host a vigil later this week.

In Amsterdam, Peters called Abby Jackson a “beautiful, kind, soft-spoken soul.

“Abby touched so many lives. She was a great, great young teacher,” Peters said. “There are so many Amsterdam connections with this particular tragedy, everyone is just connected in one way or another, so many are devastated.”

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