Akron school dedicates new sensory room to student who died in house fire

Posted at 8:38 PM, Dec 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 20:37:57-05

One year after losing a student to a house fire, Seiberling Community Learning Center in Akron is dedicating a sensory room in her memory.

Shanice Riley died at just eight years old when flames engulfed her home in Akron last year. Her older sister and parents also died in the fire.

Shanice was in third grade. Her teachers, classmates and staff had mourned her death at the time.

On Thursday, they held a dedication ceremony and unveiled a plaque with her name engraved on it. The plaque said, “In loving memory of Shanice ‘Smiley’ Riley.”

“I wish she didn't die,” said Emmalynn Yanchek, Shanice's friend who spoke at the ceremony. “I liked how nice she was to everyone, and I also liked how she would ask what I wanted to do and wasn't selfish."

Principal Jennifer MOff was emotional talking about fond memories of Shanice.

“She was such a precious child,” said Moff. “Not being able to know her anymore and not being able to see her, every morning…”

Principal Moff praised two staff members for organizing the ceremony and for the new sensory room, called "The Safe Space."

“I'm so proud of the work that our staff has done, really organizing this whole event, and that's Lisa Yanchek and Tiffany Jones,” she said.

Shanice, her sister and parents all passed away during the house fire. According to firefighters, there were no smoke detectors inside.

News 5 last reported that nine children died from house fires throughout Akron with no working smoke alarms. Since then, the Akron School District has worked to address the issue.

In addition, the sensory room in Shanice's memory, will be open to all students, not just those with autism or other special needs.

“It's for any student, who has anything diagnosed as a sensory need or for students who just need a break,” said Principal Moff.

The items inside the room were funded by the PTA and cost about $500. The blue-tinted lights inside the room are supposed to have a calming effect. Students can relax by lying down, sitting on a rocking chair or jumping on a mini-trampoline to use up excess energy.