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Va. school grieves after principal's death

Tuesday - 11/27/2012, 11:06am  ET

Students, parents and community members have created a makeshift memorial for principal Kathleen Hwang. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
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Andrew Mollenbeck,

ASHBURN, Va. - Students at Sanders Corner Elementary returned to class Monday with a far different sentiment from the one they had prior to Thanksgiving.

The school's principal, Kathleen Hwang, was killed last Wednesday while trying to cross a street when she was hit and killed by a sport utility vehicle near her home.

Authorities say she was not in a crosswalk and apparently didn't see the SUV rounding a curve before she stepped into the road. There are no charges pending.

Students took the day Monday to make cards for Hwang's husband, daughter and grandsons.

"Some were definitely saddened, and they weren't quite sure how to express some of their feelings," says Ginger Brennan, a fifth-grade teacher at the school.

"So we worked in the classroom to talk about how different children have different feelings and how they process grief," she says.

Hwang had been principal at Sanders Corner since 2005. Six grief counselors were available to students on Monday.

"She had this program called, 'I Read to the Principal,' and the children would come down and read to her," says Beth Cipriano, the assistant principal.

"In turn, she would give them a brand new book, take their picture and inside each book, sign it," she says.

Carol Winters, the principal at Newton-Lee Elementary, was a close friend and neighbor to Hwang.

"We're dealing the best we can," she says.

"We're devastated. There's a void. There's a denial. We still haven't wrapped our heads around it," Winters says.

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(Copyright 2012 by AP and WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)