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At South Side school, relief that kids visiting Paris are OK

Paulina Arellano and her classmates as they prepared to leave Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences for their trip to Paris.

Laura Arellano’s daughter Paulina arrived in Paris only Friday morning, part of a group of 22 students and five teachers from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Mount Greenwood.

They’d flown to France as part of a foreign-exchange program for a 10-day tour that included planned visits to farms and French high schools.

Now, after the terrorist attacks on the French capital later Friday, the Chicago Public Schools group will be heading home on Monday rather than staying, as planned, through Saturday.

But Arellano said Saturday she’s just relieved that her daughter and the others from the South Side school are all OK.

“I was in a panic,” Arellano said of hearing of the attacks, the credit for which was claimed Saturday by the group the Islamic State.

“I sent emails to the teachers,” she said. “It was 10 minutes, 20 minutes before they replied. But, for me, it was like five hours.”

The students were staying in Paris at the Bastille Hostel, which is about a five-minute walk from La Belle Equipe bar in Rue de Charonne, where attackers sprayed the terrace bar with gunfire and killed 18 people.

As word of the attacks spread, the teachers who traveled with the Chicago group gathered them in one room and made sure they were able to get in touch with their parents to let them know they were unharmed.

“That’s something I wouldn’t wish on any 17-year-old,” Karen Dennehy, whose son Dylan was part of the Chicago group in Paris, said of the ordeal.

She said Saturday she feels terrible for Dylan, who had paid for the trip himself.

“He can’t enjoy his hard-earned money,” Dennehy said. “But the most important thing is that they are alive, well and coming home.”

“It is a shame that the students could not experience everything Paris, France, had to offer,” a message on the school’s Facebook page said. “But we at CHSAS are glad they are safe and coming home.”