NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News school administrators have announced a plan to return students to in-person learning at Huntington Middle and Heritage High schools following a shooting that injured two 17-year-olds at the high school last month.
According to a presentation to the Newport News School Board Tuesday night, students at Huntington Middle School will return to in-person learning Oct. 25.
Heritage High School — where the shooting happened on Sept. 20 — will return on Oct. 27.
Huntington will have an open house Oct. 21 and Heritage will have one Oct. 25.
Students at both schools have been learning remotely since the shooting. A school division spokeswoman said Heritage and Huntington families were notified of the timeline Tuesday night.
In the presentation Tuesday, Newport News school administrators outlined the safety plan being put in place for the return to in-person learning at the schools.
Problems with consistent security was identified on Sept. 20 when the shooting took place because one of Heritage High’s four security officers was not in the building at the time of the shooting and the school’s one SRO was at An Achievable Dream on a split assignment.
The re-entry plan created by district leaders with input from the community focuses on school safety, well-being and potential trauma.
“We care about every child that’s entering our building and we want to make sure that they’re successful,” said Superintendent Dr. George Parker III.
School district Supervisor of Student Support Linda Askew told 10 On Your Side from the moment students step back into the building, there will be a team of student support specialists, school social workers, school psychologists and licensed mental health therapists readily available.
“We will be there to talk with students and to help them process the events as they occur and also give them some coping strategies to help them throughout the year,” Askew explained.
Each student will also take home a “mindfulness box” full of resources.
“A fidget cube, an infinity cube, something called simple dimples, which somewhat resembles a dimple but basically you push, pop it or poke it. When you’re talking about a stressful event to have something in your hand that you can hold onto, you can push it, you can turn it, whatever you need to do to help get those emotions out,” Askew said.
Also included in the box will be a list of calming apps students can download on their phones or online when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.
“It will allow them to relieve some of that stress but also release some of the emotions they feel that could be associated with the event,” Askew stated.
The district’s counseling hotline will remain in use as long as students continue to dial — district leaders revealed during Wednesday’s town hall more than 500 students have called the number.
“We look at every single student and every single parent as family and we want to do our best to support them through this process,” Askew said.
The shooting happened Sept. 20 just after a lunch period. Court documents said a 15-year-old boy allegedly opened fire in a hallway after getting into a physical fight with one of his victims. Both the 17-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl survived the shooting.
The 15-year-old is charged with two counts of aggravated malicious wounding and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, as well as underage possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm on school property, discharging a firearm on school property, discharging a firearm in an occupied building, reckless handling of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.
The 15-year-old was part of an electronic monitoring program through Newport News Juvenile Services. The video showed the 15-year-old was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet at the time of the shooting.
Heritage High School has set up a Support Hotline for those affected by the shooting. Those needing help can call 757-283-7868.