When the two girls entered Freeman High School on Monday their classmates “went nuts.”
Just days prior they’d left the small rural school on stretchers as police, panicked parents and other first responders swarmed the picturesque campus.
“It was amazing,” said Freeman Superintendent Randy Russell. “They were just pumped to see the girls. They’re high school kids. They love to be around each other.”
Less than a week ago the two girls, whom Russell declined to identify by name, were shot by a fellow classmate in a spree of violence. Another student, sophomore Sam Strahan, was killed.
The girls didn’t tell anyone that they would be coming to school. No even Russell.
“It was a great surprise,” he said.
One other student injured in Wednesday’s shooting remains in the hospital. Freshmen Emma Nees, Jordyn Goldsmith and Gracie Jensen were injured in the shooting.
The two girls joined their classmates on the first day back to school, Monday. Students entered the school arm-in-arm with parents. American flags were lined up at the door. Firefighters, police, other first responders and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich were all present.
“That was really cool,” Russell said of watching the students re-enter the school. “That’s something I’m never going to forget about.”
School officials carefully planned the re-opening of Freeman High School after Wednesday’s shooting. There were more than 60 counselors stationed in each classroom throughout the district. There were also therapy dogs, which Russell called “reassuring.”
“We’re going to continue those important resources for the foreseeable future,” Russell said.
After students had gone through the school with their parents, they were called back outside at the front door for a prayer. They then re-entered, surrounded by their parents and applause, which continued until all the students had streamed through. They next were given breakfast in the school’s multipurpose room.
“You could see the students and staff really start to relax and get energized as the day went on,” Russell said.
Although parents were invited to spend the whole day at the school with their students, Russell said most left after the all-school assembly.
On Tuesday, Russell said, teachers will play things by ear. Some classes may resume normal lessons, but that will be at the teachers’ discretion. Class periods won’t be shortened, as they were Monday. In particular, staff will work with high school students who were on the second floor, where the shooting occurred.
“Students are just really resilient,” Russell said. “Sometimes students don’t get as much credit as they deserve about how resilient they are.”
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