The spring camping trip is typically something kids look forward to and envision the great stories that will come from it. A trip taken this week by students from Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, however, will include a story that many may want to forget as the students made the tragic discovery of a body at the base of a cliff.
The students, their teachers and chaperones were hiking in Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin on May 17 when they found a purse on the cliff top, wrote PCCS Executive Director Nigel Whittington in a letter to parents.
He stated that the group looked down and discovered a body down below. They called out but got no response. The adults then called Park Rangers to investigate and assist.
The Park Rangers turned up with a search and rescue unit, Whittington stated. PCCS students and staff were safe but upset by the scene, and they returned to camp. They decided to return to Grayslake one day early and arrived home around 11 p.m. Thursday night.
According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is now investigating the death of a 56-year-old McFarland woman who was found at the bottom of a 100-foot overlook. WKOW-TV said the Sauk County coroner pronounced the woman dead at the scene.
PCCS is offering group or individual counseling for any student who may be shocked or saddened by the incident.
"It is just a tragedy for the victim's family," said Whittington on Friday. "None of us knew the victim but it is still an unusual situation. We are just keeping an eye on our students. We will give them whatever help they need to deal with this."
He said that it may be the first experience with death that many of the 13- or 14-year-olds have experienced.
"Out of this tragedy, we also have a learning opportunity to help the kids process it all," Whittington said. "We have an excellent staff who reacted properly and quickly. We left it up to their judgement if they wanted to return home early or not. They did."
He wrote in his letter to parents that children can process a difficult situation differently.
"At times like these some people become deeply reflective while others become very active," Whittington wrote in the letter to parents. "At PCCS, incidents like this become teachable moments – we learn about ourselves and we learn about each other—we learn about things that cannot be quantified on a test. I, for one, truly appreciate the quality of the PCCS community in difficult times such as this."