School resumes in Danvers, amid shock, grief over teacher Colleen Ritzer’s slaying

Danvers, MA 102513 Students walk in front of a make-shift memorial at Danvers High School on October 25, 2013 the first day school opened after Philip Chislm, 14, was charged with killing beloved Mathematics teacher Colleen Ritzer. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)/ MET
Students today checked out the makeshift memorial to teacher Colleen Ritzer at Danvers High School.
Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff

DANVERS — Students at this North Shore town’s high school today finished their first day of classes since the shocking discovery Wednesday that popular math teacher Colleen Ritzer had been murdered inside the school, allegedly by a freshman student, Philip D. Chism.

Students leaving the sprawling campus said their day began with a meeting in which staff reminded students that grief counselors were on hand to help them deal with the emotional impacts of the murder.

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Students said most of their class time was devoted to reviewing lessons already taught, or to conversations between students and teachers about what happened. Ritzer, 24, was in her second year as a math teacher at the school, and had already established herself as a favorite among students because of her devotion to them.

“Just trying to get by — it was kind of emotionally draining, a lot to take in,’’ Brian Dos, 16, who had a class with Ritzer last year.

Another student, Olivia Perez, 14, was taking algebra with Ritzer this year. Perez, as did many other students, fought through tears as she described the emotionally turbulent day.

“It was just so hard not seeing her,’’ said Perez.

Perez wore a pink flower in her hair in memory of Ritzer, who had told students that pink was her favorite color.

Ritzer’s family today announced the formation of a scholarship fund to benefit Andover High School graduates who pursue a career in teaching. Donations to the Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship can be made through the Essex County Community Foundation.

“We are simply overwhelmed by the many generous offers of so many who wish to support a lasting legacy for Colleen,’’ the family said in a statement. “We believe that this scholarship fund is an appropriate way to honor Colleen’s tireless and dedicated work to pursue such a worthy and rewarding profession.’’

The second-floor bathroom where authorities said they believe Ritzer was murdered on Tuesday remained closed. So, too, was the classroom where Ritzer and the 14-year-old Chism were last seen together around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. Ritzer apparently was providing Chism with individual attention after school for an upcoming math test, students have told the Globe.

Students said they left messages on her classroom door. Yellow Post-It notes, which eventually covered the entire door.

The day passed slowly for Emily Nestor, a 14-year-old freshman.

“It was really slow and kind of sad. No one really knew what to do,’’ Nestor said.

A makeshift memorial has begun growing in front of the high school in Ritzer’s memory.

Troy Fleming, junior who had a class with Ritzer last year, dropped off a bouquet of flowers at the memorial, struggling, he said, to try to understand why this had happened.

“I loved her. This has been really hard,’’ Fleming said. “It still hasn’t really hit me. I can’t believe she’s gone.”

The memorial includes handwritten notes, a pink Red Sox teddy bear, and a pumpkin carved with the mathematical symbol pi.

Also today, Ritzer’s family released details about the funeral plans for the Andover resident.

Calling hours at St. Augustine Church in Andover will be held on Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will be said Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine’s Church.

A search warrant filed by investigators in the case has been impounded at Salem District Court.