School's out ... past summer

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Hundreds of kids are getting an extended summer break in Ferguson, Missouri.

It's not a break they want.

While teenagers in other communities may openly scoff at the notion that Ferguson has yet to come off of summer break, the sentiment among most kids here is that, indeed, they are ready to go back to school.

Allisha and A'Nais, both 9, attend Johnson Wabash Elementary School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Both took advantage of the open library time this week made available when school officials felt compelled to cancel classes until at least next week due to the unrest in Ferguson connected to the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown. Brown died during an altercation with Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

School was actually supposed to start the week before. But was pushed back. And back. And back again.

And while the adults outside of the library work to calm the community, the children inside have a simple message - open school back up.

"Sitting at home is boring," Allisha said, the room around her buzzing with creative and artistic energy.

Added A'Nais, "I hate it. I would rather be in school to learn."

These are canned answers during a media blitz interview, either. These are the most candid of thoughts from the residents of Ferguson and surrounding areas that are the most affected by the turmoil.

"I went to a rally and it's not as bad as it looks on the news," Allisha said. "This is not a bad town. They have parties for us to go to."

Indeed, Ferguson does much to encourage health play and children's activities.

The city has been named to the Playful City USA program - four times, more than any other city in Missouri. The awards go to cities that take bold steps to ensure that children have easy access to a balance of active play in their communities.

Amairis, 11, is having a blast at the library on this particular day, making braids and bracelets. But she, too, misses school. And she has a most poignant message for those out on the streets.

"I want them to sit down and talk it out," she said, a smile replaced on her face with seriousness.

Teachers and parents alike would like nothing more. Dr. Gloria and Laura, who helped bring kids in from the street corner to the library, said there is a definite void in the community with school out. And it reaches other communities, too, as the Ferguson-Florissant School District reaches into Berkeley, Florissant and touches other areas.

"We're confused, sad, kind of resigned," said Laura, a 24-year resident in North County and a 13-year teacher in the district. Gloria said not being in school is "disorienting."

"The dialogue needs to start and healing needs to begin," Laura said. "Public opinion is overriding the process."