WELEETKA (AP) - Students at the Graham Independent School District will remember two slain classmates when their summer vacation ends and they return to school Thursday.
Students will receive rubber bracelets inscribed with the letters BFF — Best Friends Forever — in honor of classmates Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13. Both were shot to death on June 8 while walking along County Line Road, four miles northeast of Weleetka in rural Okfuskee County. No arrests have been made. School officials say the bracelets will be purple and green — Skyla's and Taylor's favorite colors. Taylor, a straight-A student, would have been entering the seventh grade, while her best friend, Skyla, would have been entering the sixth grade. Together they served on the school's cheerleading squad, and Skyla was on the basketball team. The two also were active in 4-H and Students Working Against Tobacco. School Superintendent Dusty Chancey said he does not anticipate the need for grief counselors for students when classes resume. However, Chancey said teachers will meet with a psychologist on Wednesday and pose questions dealing with specific student concerns. He said the teachers will be able to use the responses from the psychologist for students still troubled by the slayings. Otherwise, Chancey said, if more therapy is needed, professional counselors will be brought to the school. But the superintendent is expecting a peaceful scene at the school on Thursday and Friday, as students get acquainted with new classmates, new teachers and new class schedules. "I expect it to be real quiet. We're going to try to get back to a routine; trying for normalcy," Chancey said. Chancey said teachers held workshops Tuesday, and each educator was given a bracelet to wear in honor of Skyla and Taylor. Including Chancey, the school system has a dozen teachers for about 100 students.
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