District focusing on healing and school safety plan in wake of July 4 parade shooting
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Highland Park High School students returned to class Wednesday after a summer that changed so many lives with that tragic shooting at the Fourth of July parade.
The focus for students and teachers as they return for the first day of school is on building relationships with each other.
Students and staff alike will be trying to heal together after a tragedy that unfolded just half-a-mile away.
Highland Park High School students headed into their first day with hugs.
"I have really mixed feelings," junior Nolan Schott said. "I'm excited to be back, but it's just been so tough."
Schott walks by himself to campus. He was just blocks away from uptown Highland Park when the July 4 mass shooting began and he was at Six Flags Great America the same day a shooting unfolded in the park's parking lot days ago.
"Now I'm just scared everywhere I go," he said.
"As a person who loves to learn, I'm very excited but I'm also nervous, but im glad our school is giving us the resources to help us mentally," said fellow junior, Stephanie Diaz.
Those students now embody the message posted all across town saying, "Highland Park strong," as they rely on each other to get back to normal.
The American flag waved in the wind and students were welcomed back by their superintendent as students and staff attempted to heal collectively.
""I've just been with my friends because we're all going through the same thing, so it's been easy to talk to them," Schott said.
"We talk to each other about the importance of self-care and taking care of yourself," said Bruce Law, Township High School District 113 superintendent.
Law said teachers have been training this summer to work with students who are mentally recovering from the shooting.
"We think of these things in tiers," Superintendent Law said. "There may be students who need a lot more counseling than other students."
Security is top of mind for the district, including a new policy asking students to scan IDs as they enter the building, as well as alarms that ring when a door is left open.
Other districts across the area are also bracing for the return to school. North Shore District 112 resumes classes next Wednesday and at schools, like Indian Trial Elementary, there are millions of dollars going into new security measures inside and outside the building.
The parents of younger children are still trying to find ways to inform their kids about what happened on the Fourth of July.
Kim Fleuchas brought her three kids to honor the victims of the parade at the memorial before sending them off to elementary school in Lincolnshire.
"It's a little scary," she said. "They start tomorrow but they're in God's hands and I just pray they're okay."
"Kids shouldn't have to fear going to school or going to a parade," Diaz said.
Diaz is an activist pushing for tighter gun laws. She's ready to learn once again with a community slowly trying to process this unthinkable tragedy.
"I think that sense of normalcy will definitely help many people, so I am glad we are going back to school," Diaz said. "Just the sense of community and being together more has definitely strengthened."
The district made a point to make sure no students had any homework Wednesday so they can focus their attention on each other.