NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Richneck Elementary School students returned to classrooms Monday with metal detectors, clear bookbags, therapy dogs and anxious parents.

The school had been closed since Jan. 6 as the Richneck community reel from the incident in which a 6-year-old student shot Newport News first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner.

“The teacher had to be our sacrificial lamb to bring this to light,” said Richneck Elementary parent Eve Parnham. “I applaud her, and I’m grateful that she’s OK.”

Zwerner’s lawyer recently announced that she will be filing a lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools.

Classes at Richneck started just after 9 a.m. The classroom where the shooting occurred will not be open for future instructions anytime soon. The district may use that room for other non-learning purposes. 

Parents were anxious but hopeful as their children returned to school.

“His excitement kind of pushed me toward be more OK with coming back,” said Richneck Elementary parent Jordan Vestre.

A Newport News spokesperson confirmed with 10 On Your Side’s KaMaria Braye that students returning to classrooms will be given a clear backpack.

“I’m going to keep it forever,” one Richneck Elementary kindergarten student said.

Said Richneck Elementary parent Suzanne Turner: “All day, I think I’ve just been pacing, every parent has, so just to hear how he was doing once he said that he was happy. I was just like, ‘OK, you’re good.'”

The parent who went viral for her comments outside the school Jan. 6 said she continues to be concerned about guns.

“If a 6-year old can get it, that 6-year old, what makes you think that someone else can’t get hold of it and then do something crazy,” the parent said.

Student support specialists, licensed mental health therapists, and school social workers will also be at Richneck this week to continue offering emotional support to students, families, and staff. Officials say appointments will not be needed. 

Police greeted staff and students, giving staff members red and yellow flowers and they were high-fiving kids as they got off school buses.

As students returned to class, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew confirmed that the school will continue to not have a school resource officer as the police department does not have enough resources to staff SROs at the elementary level. Drew was at the school for its reopening Monday along with other officers and firefighters.

The school now has metal detectors installed.

Just days prior to students’ return to class, Richneck Elementary School Vice Principal Dr. Ebony Parker resigned amid the fallout from the shooting. Previously, Karen Lynch had been named as the school’s new interim principal and is now assigned to the school as an administrator on special assignment.

The day after the vice principal at Richneck resigned, the Newport News School Board voted to fire the district’s superintendent, Dr. George Parker.

Parker is walking away with $502,115.14 – an amount that equals two times his salary and will be paid out equally over the next 12 months.

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