School copes with student’s drowning - FOX 13 News

School copes with student’s drowning

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

So much sadness – it's the kind of loss students at Rodgers Middle never could've imagined.

"I know you've heard it on the news. Unfortunately, Jenny did not survive," Rodgers Middle School Principal Sharon Tumicki told students Tuesday morning.

She confirmed what many of them already knew.

Jenny Cabellero, 11, a special needs student with Down syndrome drowned in a pond on school grounds, just yards from the gymnasium where she was supposed to be.

"When we have a loss at a school, it really is so much more frightening for the student population and the teachers, too," said school psychologist Patrick Camavan.

At the school board meeting on Tuesday afternoon, a moment of silence was held for Jenny and her family.

"I know that my colleagues, I know how you feel, how our staff feels anytime something like this happens, and we lose one of our children. It weighs very heavily on all of us," school board vice chair April Griffin said.

Investigators say a classmate saw Jenny leave the gym and told school staffers. That was around 12:30 Monday.

The school resource officer, teachers, aides and even some students looked for her.

They called the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office around 1. Deputies arrived in minutes and immediately launched a massive ground and air search. Six hours later divers found her. Investigators were back at the school Tuesday, trying to piece together how it happened.

"It is important that we not rush to a judgment. The sheriff's office has been tirelessly working to gather all the facts. We have been assisting them in their investigation," said Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

For so many involved in the search for little Jenny, the emotion is still raw.

How could it have happened: A special needs child wandering away while six aides and a teacher are supposed to be watching?

Elia struggled to hold back tears as she briefed the school board. She acknowledged there are a lot of tough questions.

"There are many people who want answers to questions today. We're still collecting facts, working with the sheriff's office as appropriate. I assure you that the facts, as they become clear, we'll take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that this does not happen again," said Elia, who says she made that promise personally to Jenny's family.

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