The Topeka community is upset more than a week later over how the death of 5-year-old Zoey Felix was handled on the part of government agencies.
Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson from USD-501 and Regan Baxter, the principal of Shaner Early Learning Academy wore pink and purple, Felix’s favorite colors, to discuss the tragedy and upcoming events the district has planned.
Felix was a student at Shaner Early Learning Academy, a school within the USD-501 District.
Anderson said she can’t comment on the part of specific individuals or specific families but that she can comment on what USD-501 does to provide for its students.
“I don’t know if people understand what public schools do for children,” Anderson said. “We continue to navigate our way through this.”
Anderson said when people have concerns like a number of absences, students showing up unfed or if they look like they haven’t had a bath in days, staff and social workers inform the proper agencies.
Anderson said every school has a mental health team that reports matters that may indicate something is wrong at home. Anderson said USD-501 also conducts home visits across the county to make sure students are in a safe environment.
“We again continue to love on the children we have in our space and do everything we can to make sure they’re safe,” Anderson said. “We can’t do it alone, we need to make sure other people and agencies meet us in that space and take it from there when they are in the community.”
In addition to this, 27 News Anchor Katie Garceran asked about an alleged incident where a student pulled a gun in the parking lot of a Topeka High homecoming football game. Anderson couldn’t confirm the incident but said there was a “gathering” of students outside of the stadium and that USD-501 heard reports of officers and a variety of different things. Anderson said the policy changes would’ve happened regardless of the alleged homecoming incident.
USD-501 recently updated its athletics facilities safety policy, with an emphasis on Hummer Sports Park. The updated policy includes no backpacks inside the stadium, no entry for middle schoolers or younger without an adult, two entry points for high school students at the west and southeast sides of the stadium and more.
“What we do know – because I was asked – ‘Are they Topeka High students?'” Anderson said. “We do know no Topeka High students were involved in any incident, they were enjoying homecoming.”
In regards to moving forward following the tragic death of Zoey Felix, USD-501 said they plan to honor her memory in every way that they can.
“We are all heartbroken in this space, we are arming people with things they can do,” Anderson said.
USD-501 will be holding a tree planting service and dedication ceremony. A yellow magnolia tree will be planted in Zoey’s memory at 4:30 on Thursday, Oct. 12 at the Shaner Early Learning Academy.
“Yellow magnolias often symbolize happiness and joy which represent Zoey beautifully. Yellow magnolias often symbolize happiness and joy which represent Zoey beautifully,” Anderson said in a statement to parents.
In a statement Anderson released to TPS families earlier this week, she mentions people can donate to the Early Childhood Fund managed by the Topeka Public Schools Foundation. The fund allows TPS to donate basic resources to preschool and kindergarten students. If you’re interested in sending a contribution, click here.
For more information, you can watch the full interview linked above.