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First-grader collapses and dies in gym class at Newton school

NEWTON — A first-grade student who collapsed during gym class has died.

Merriam Avenue School in Newton
Merriam Avenue School in Newton (Google Street View)

Superintendent G. Kennedy Greene said the girl’s classmates at the Merriam Avenue School thought she had passed out around 12:10 p.m. Wednesday. The students were taken from gym and the school nurse helped administer CPR.

The girl was taken to Newton Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead late Wednesday afternoon. Greene could not disclose specifics about the girl’s death but said there was “nothing unusual that happened at the school.”

Greene would not disclose the girl’s identity but said she was “well-known” among the school’s 500 students.

Counselors were at the Sussex County school on Thursday morning for classes, according to Greene, who was also at the school. There was no outward display at the school about the girl’s death.

Greene said parents were notified about the girl’s death on Wednesday and teachers read a statement to students in their first-period class on Thursday. It was the first time many of the students, ranging from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade, were dealing with a close death.

“With older children, they’ve at least experienced something before, perhaps with some family member or someone related. It’s difficult just the concept of trying to share with them that something like this can happen. The people who were involved did everything they could,” Greene said.

Teachers were keeping an eye out for students who were more emotionally affected and directing them to counseling. Students were also encouraged to draw pictures to express their grief, according to Greene.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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