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Schools shaken by student's death

Tragedy renews focus on emphasizing safety on journey to school

Feb. 29, 2012

"How do I describe Joey? I would say he's a jokester. He was very smart - a great student academically," Horizon Elementary School Principal Sandra Carter said, remembering former student, Joey Kramer, who died after being struck by a train in Wauwatosa on Monday.

"He had an infectious smile, and he was just kind of a jokester," she continued. "I just feel awful that this happened to him."

Joey and his family moved to Wauwatosa last year, and he was a sixth-grader at Longfellow Middle School. But he grew up in Pewaukee, where he attended Pewaukee Lake Elementary and Horizon Elementary Schools.

His death shook both communities.

Longfellow Middle School Principal Jason Galien on Wednesday said his school is slowly transitioning from grief to a celebration of life.

Joey, 11, died Monday after he was hit by a freight train while walking to school. He was wearing ear buds and had a hood pulled over his head as he walked north over the tracks at 68th and State street just before 7:30 a.m. He was taken to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, but he was not able to be revived.

Grieving, thinking of others

Galien said he spoke to Joey's mother later on Monday and she brought up how her son's death could be a lesson for other students.

"It was amazing that she thought of that while she was still grieving over her own son," Galien said.

The family has declined to speak publicly at this time.

Support system

The Tosa school district had additional counselors, social workers and psychologists at the ready all week.

Therese Kwiatkowski, director of student services, said the district sent four additional counselors to join Longfellow's staff of six.

"It was pretty rough, but the staff did a great job," Kwiatkowski said.

"We know that many students and staff may not have experienced this type of loss," Kwiatkowski said, "so we want to be available whenever they need the resources."

Pewaukee, too, made counselors available.

"I know we had probably about 40 kids that they spent some time with, I think, just wanting to just talk this through and have it make some sense to them," Carter said. "There's one little boy who had been with him two weeks ago, and they were planning a birthday party for him, because his birthday was coming up."

Horizon is planning to put up a joke board at the school in honor of Joey because of his sense of humor.

Focus on safety

The accident has renewed interest in looking at how the Wauwatosa School District and the city may be able to work with railroad officials and others in making the crossings safer for pedestrians.

"I think it's an opportunity for us to talk to our students about safety and get more information from the railroad about the realities of how trains operate," Galien said.

Superintendent Phil Ertl said he expects the tragedy to be part of a discussion the school and city are having about safety of students coming and going to all the schools.

Survivors take time to mourn

A visitation will be held March 1 from 4:30 to 7 p.m., followed by services at Church and Chapel, 380 W. Bluemound Road, Waukesha. The burial is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Highland Memorial Park.

Joey is survived by his mom, Sara; grandparents Gerald Kramer and Linda Knee; his Uncle Nick; other relatives and friends.

Reporters Stefanie Scott and Joe Trovato contributed to this report.

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