NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Wednesday marked one month since a shooting inside Heritage High School in Newport News.
A 15-year-old boy is charged with shooting two fellow students that day.
Since then, school leaders have worked with their students, staff and the community to come up with a re-entry plan.
Safety adjustments and mental health support are among the top of their priority list.
Cynthia Allen-Whyte has a daughter who goes to Heritage High School.
"She's ready to go back in the classroom," said Allen-Whyte.
Her eager and active junior, Madison, has learned in a virtual classroom for the past month.
"It's unfortunate that Heritage had to be the example for this terrible shooting to happen in Newport News," said Allen-Whyte.
But she hopes what happened can bring attention to issues, including school safety and mental health.
In a virtual town hall Wednesday night, Newport News school division leaders addressed concerns like those aforementioned and laid out the re-entry plan.
"We wanted to put something in place that is sustainable," said Superintendent Dr. George Parker.
He said that security adjustments will enhance existing layered safety strategies.
"Our plan will include increased random and/or required searches as needed," said Dr. Parker. Metal detectors will be in use for that.
Chief of Staff Rashard Wright mentioned they have not yet decided on whether students will go through an airport-style entry with metal detectors every day.
Wright said they are researching ways to potentially make that practice more time-efficient.
"But we will be more vigilant with regards to planned and random searches as students start the school day," he said.
There will also now be a total of six security guards at Heritage. A seventh will be designated to Huntington Middle on the top floor.
A full-time school resource officer is now also assigned to the building.
Those measures put parents like Allen-Whyte at ease. However, she hopes there's a lesson to be learned in teaching youth about conflict resolution.
"I think we really have to focus on that. We really have to dig deep and understand what these kids are going through. It's going to take everybody," said Allen-Whyte.
There have also been in-person and virtual mental health resources available for the healing process since the shooting.
Newport News school division leaders emphasized that support will continue.
DATES TO KNOW
- October 21 - Huntington Open House at 6 p.m.
- October 25 - Huntington Students Return to School
- October 25 - Heritage Open House at 6 p.m.
- October 27 - Heritage Students Return to School
If you missed the town hall on Wednesday, school division leaders told 13News Now a recording will be available and posted on Thursday.