A few years ago, the Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District community was faced with several tragic events that left school administrators searching for a way to best serve and support their students during a difficult time.
What they found was a place of healing.
As a response to a series of tragic events, the district met with students, parents and community members to explore some recommendations around the development of an area in which students and others might gather to support one another in the time of loss, explained David Roth, principal at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School.
“As the community worked to reflect on how we can better support students and families, the idea of surrounding students with support emerged,” Roth says.
A “Healing Place” was planned for an area located at the northern face of the building, along East Street. Roth says the original concept art for The Healing Place was provided by SEI Design. The project was funded through monetary and in-kind donations.
Dedicated volunteers, led by community activist John Halleran, raised funds and good-neighbor rates to put the project in motion. Phil Burrows, retired deputy superintendent and director of pupil personnel services in Honeoye Falls-Lima, spearheaded the project.
Anyone is allowed at The Healing Place at any time.
“The Healing Place is a monument that symbolizes a community that takes care of one another,” Roth says. “This is an area in which students, parents, staff and community members might gather to support one another in the time of loss, reflection and to begin to heal.”
One of the goals of The Healing Place is to remind students of the motto, “Take Care of One Another.” In fact, on the wall of The Healing Place is an inscription: “To Honor Those We Have Loved and Lost, Always Take Care of One Another.”
The opening and dedication, as well as a community candlelight observance, of The Healing Place took place in September 2015.
Recognizing that each individual deals with loss in their own way, Roth says the Healing Place was designed to be a safe place to express yourself.
“The Healing Place represents a community’s thoughts, actions and feelings,” Roth says. “Drawing connections, surrounding one in another in a time of need, and remembering and reflecting are all purposes of The Healing Place.
“We have had alumni groups remember lost classmates, student artists create their own connections, and helped create a park-like setting on the front lawn of the high school.”
Roth says, as a school district, the protocol for dealing with a student tragedy is to:
• Stop and note the loss of the student, and grieve the loss.
• Respect the family’s wishes for privacy — an important aspect of choosing when to inform and include in-school community communications.
• Fulfill the requirements of state and local laws regarding privacy and information sharing.
• Reassure and provide a safe place for community members within the boundaries of the campus.
• Provide information and support resources for impacted students, faculty and staff.
“The Healing Place helped to provide that safe place,” Roth says. “We are grateful to have such a place, and more grateful when it can just be a quiet place to think and feel.”