OXFORD, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan high school where four students were fatally shot reopened Monday for the first time since the November attack, with the school’s principal declaring “we are reclaiming our high school back.”
Dozens of therapy dogs, including a fleet of puppies, were available to help students, who ended the day with a gift bag.
“We had a strong return with 91% of our high school students in attendance,” Superintendent Tim Throne said. “Words cannot express how good it is to be together with our Wildcats again.”
Students had been attending classes at other buildings since Jan. 10.
Four students were killed and six students and a teacher were injured in the shooting. A fellow student, Ethan Crumbley, 15, is charged with murder and other crimes. His parents also are facing charges.
The high school is in Oakland County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit. The school’s interior has been renovated since the shooting, with new paint, wall graphics and ceiling tiles.
Principal Steve Wolf said in a video posted Sunday that construction crews had been working “tirelessly” on the renovations and that school staff worked hard to “prepare our students for a safe return to school.”
“We have been through so much to get to this moment. We’ve been grieving together, we’ve been praying together, we’ve attended funerals, vigils and memorials and we have been absolutely heartbroken. And we’ve been angry,” Wolf said. “Yet we’ve been determined to carry on. … And we are reclaiming our high school back.”
The district asked reporters to stay away from campus Monday.
A temporary memorial set up outside the school was removed before students returned. Throne said experts advised that removing it would help students “further their healing process.” A permanent memorial is planned.
Separately, Throne directed families to a letter from James Henry, co-founder of the Children’s Trauma Assessment Center at Western Michigan University. He recommended that students not watch “The Fallout,” an HBO Max movie available this week about a school shooting, in order to “prevent trauma triggering.”
If they want to see it, they should watch with a parent, Henry said.