Harlan County school brings in counselors for first day back without assistant principal

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HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Students and staff at one Harlan County elementary returned to school Wednesday morning with heavy hearts.

Patricia Caldwell, assistant principal at James A. Cawood Elementary in Harlan County, died in a car crash on Christmas Eve.

Her husband, daughter, and son-in-law also died.

Returning back to school after Christmas break wasn't the same for those Harlan County elementary students.

"We're trying to just get on with things and get cracking on the job in front of us," said Principal James Clem.

James A. Cawood Elementary was missing one person, Assistant Principal Patricia Caldwell.

"She was our academic coach, excellent teacher when she was in the classroom, and an excellent assistant. I don't know what I'm going to do without her to tell you the truth," said Principal Clem.

Caldwell's unexpected death is the reason why the school had counselors on hand for the first day back.

"We've just tried to make ourselves available," said Jill Harris, one of the school district's psychologists.

Students had time at home with their families to grieve but coming back to the classroom and facing the reality of Caldwell not being there is what school officials feared.

"They're handling it pretty well to be honest with you," said Principal Clem. "They're pretty resilient as young folks are."

As one of the school district's psychologists tells us, each teacher and student will deal with the loss differently.

"I think as long as we're able to keep the kids on their regular schedule and in a routine, I think that they will adjust to things over time," said Harris.

Time to heal and revisit normalcy is all they say these young students need.

Principal Clem tells us counselors will be on stand-by for the next few weeks.

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