ONEIDA, Tenn. — Grief counselors were at all Oneida schools Tuesday to help the children and staff cope with the sudden death of a sixth-grader with special needs.
Hunter Hall had a medical emergency in class Monday. Staff members performed CPR and used the AED on the sixth-grader until emergency crews arrived to transport him to a hospital. Hall died later Monday.
"It was sudden. It was hectic. And they did everything they could. Our staff was prepared for situations like these and didn't miss a beat, and the emergency responders did everything possible. It's just a tremendous loss," said Jeanny Phillips, director of schools in Oneida. "To be honest, this is the sort of thing you pray you never experience."
Phillips said grief not only hit the middle school, but all schools in the Oneida district. Hall began special needs classes at the elementary school when he was three years old. This was his first year at the campus that houses the middle and high school. Students of all ages interacted with Hall.
"Hunter was the kid that everybody loved. And he's the kid that not only did the teachers take care of him, but every student in the building. So, he was well-liked. He was a joy to see and just a big part of the happiness we felt at our school daily. So, it was a huge loss for us," said Phillips.
Classmates made banners and cards to honor Hall. A wreath of white flowers was placed on the front door of the school. The community mourned his death and tried to celebrate the joys of his life.
"His biggest thing was toys. You know, even as he got older we'd always have to confiscate toys from him," smiled Phillips. "Hunter was very special to us. He was special to the staff, special to the kids. Everybody knew Hunter."
Counselors and school psychologists were on-hand to help students, and extra help was made available to assist teachers who are also grieving.
"We have people to cover for our staff. Anybody that needs a minute, or needs time, they can leave their classroom and take the time if they need it," said Phillips. "Keep everybody in your thoughts and prayers because at this time everybody needs it. It's a small community and he was very important to us."
The principal of Oneida Middle School sent parents a letter about Hall's death.
"This loss raises many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school, especially our students," wrote OMS principal Kelly Posey-Chitwood. "We are saddened by the loss to our school family and will make every effort to help you and your child as needed."
Funeral arrangements are being made through Pine Knot Funeral Home in Kentucky. Family will hold a visitation for Hunter at Pine Knot on Saturday, Jan. 18 starting at 11 a.m. with a funeral service following after at 2 p.m..
"Hunter was a special loving boy who enjoyed life. He loved talking, making people laugh, and caring for animals," his obituary read.