As much as they want to help Sparks Middle School students get back to life as they once knew it, having it feel like a normal day back to class is near impossible. Emotions are running high and Sparks Police and Washoe County School District Police are patrolling campus.
There used to be one officer patrolling the area around Sparks Middle School but we spotted up to five patrol cars driving by to reassure the school that it is well protected and students and staff are not alone. An increased police presence will be available as long as the school needs them, according to Jason Trevino the Deputy Chief of the WCSD Police, "I can't even imagine what they're going through. I'm sure it'll be a roller coaster ride for them."
An entire community supports these students as they head back to class. School was canceled for a week when those fatal shots were fired last Monday. Two students were injured and beloved math teacher Michael Landsberry was killed before the 12-year-old shooter, Jose Reyes turned the gun on himself.
"This was a difficult day for everyone, but our Sparks Middle School family pulled together to help make it easier," said Principal Stacey Cooper. "We welcomed our students back with lots of hugs, some quiet time if they needed it, and plenty of time together with their friends and teachers. Our counselors were available all day for anyone who needed help. We want to thank Sparks Middle School families who worked with us to make this day easier for our students. We couldn't have done it without their help, support, and resilience."
Katherine Loudon, the Director of Counseling Equity and Diversity for the WCSD says, "there's a lot of people telling them 'hello glad you came to school today.'"
Loudon says a welcome group gave hugs and high fives as students walked through the front doors Monday morning.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) just came to Reno. Their NEAT team specializes in counseling after school tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 students and 6 adults were shot and killed last December.
"Everyone all around the country asks why, and as a nation we continue to see these types of incidents throughout the country," says Loudon. This means experts are forced to be well-versed in watching for signs of heartache in their students. "There has been an incident here that has impacted our entire community and we're not ignoring that fact."
There are no plans for difficult course work on their first day back as teachers allow the 640 students to feel comfortable in sharing emotions.
Comfort tools like a service dog named Guido will also serve to bring a smile says Maria Macaluso of Paws for Love. "Hopefully he will bring students some comfort and show staff that we all love them."
Macaluso, a retired teacher and volunteer, hopes her furry friend makes for a nice break from the grief, "they pet him, they talk to them, they love him and he loves them back and makes them smile."