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2 weeks after attack, Parkland students return to school

By Sara Shayanian
1/8
2 weeks after attack, Parkland students return to school
Supporters of students arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday as students return to class in Parkland, Fla. Photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to class on Wednesday, two weeks after the mass shooting that killed 17 students and faculty.

They were met with armed police and therapy animals when classes started at 7:40 a.m.

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Survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting, teachers and parents have spent the last two weeks attending numerous funerals and advocating for stricter gun control and school safety standards.

"I have to go back to school ... look at empty desks. Try my hardest to feel safe," Douglas junior Conor Dietrich, who lobbied legislators in Tallahassee last week for stricter gun laws, tweeted. "And worst of all try not to think about all the people I miss. This is going to be the hardest part by far."

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Douglas Principal Ty Thompson tweeted Tuesday that returning to class wouldn't mean a return to textbooks and homework.

"Looking forward to tomorrow Eagles!" Thompson wrote. "Remember our focus is on emotional readiness and comfort not curriculum: so there is no need for backpacks. Come ready to start the healing process and #RECLAIMTHENEST"

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School administrators have spoken with former Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis about how to cope. Twelve Columbine students and a teacher were killed at the Littleton, Colo., campus in 1999.

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"It really is a marathon and not a sprint," DeAngelis told the Sun Sentinel. "There are going to be days when everything seems to be getting back to where it might have been prior, but then something happens to hinder the healing process. One of things people asked me right after Columbine is 'When is it going to be back to normal?' I said it never really gets back to normal."

Balloons won't be allowed on the Stoneman Douglas campus due to the popping noise mimicking the sound of gunfire. Substitutes will also be available for teachers who may need additional time away.

Officials said the sound of the fire alarm, which was pulled during the attack to lure students out of classrooms, will also be changed.

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Administrators have asked that crowds and support groups stay away from the school as students return Wednesday, to allow a sense of normalcy.

Classrooms in the three-story building where the shootings occurred will remain closed and likely be demolished -- forcing many students and teachers into new classrooms.

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Some students said they still feel unprepared to return.

"I know Joaquin would want me to go to finish my high school year," senior Julien Decoste, who lost best friend Joaquin Oliver, told ABC News. "But I'm not mentally ready yet."

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