Increased safety measures in place ahead of students’ return to Heritage High School on Wednesday

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As students prepare to enter the doors of Heritage High School for the first time since last month’s school shooting, school administrators are hoping to calm their nerves.

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On Sept. 20, two 17-year-old students were shot and injured when a 15-year-old boy allegedly opened fire in a hallway after getting into a fight with one of his victims.

Since the shooting, Newport News school administrators have taken steps to help students feel as safe as possible when they get back.

“We really wanted to make sure we gathered input on how the students were feeling about returning back, how the teachers were feeling about it,” said Executive Director of Secondary School Leadership Dr. Felicia Barnett.

The scary incident revealed problems with consistent security at the school. Now, six security officers will be at the school, and one for Huntington Middle that’s housed in the same building.

Staff went through multiple safety training sessions in preparation for the return.

Barnett says they’ll also be increasing the use of metal detectors in different ways.

“Whether it be through our bus scans, using our detection wands, also the use of metal detectors coming inside of the building, as well as classroom searches and quick scans, so we have a variety of methods consistently yet unannounced so that students feel safe coming in the building,” said Barnett.

When students step back into the building, there will be a team of counselors and social workers.

Barnett says teachers have also set aside time for students to reflect.

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“They’ll also be able to experience some opportunity with morning meetings. Opportunity to discuss, provide input on their needs as well as give them some coping strategies to deal with returning back to the building after a traumatic event,” said Barnett.

Each student will also take home a “mindfulness box” full of resources.

Heritage High School has set up a Support Hotline for those affected by the shooting. Last week district leaders said more than 500 students have called the number. Those still needing help can call 757-283-7868.

Barnett said these security changes will be implemented through the entirety of the school year.

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