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Newport News to put metal detectors in all schools, officials say

Michelle Price, a spokesperson for Newport News Public Schools, said no timeline has been established for students to return to classes at Richneck.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — All schools in Newport News will be getting metal detectors following the shooting at Richneck Elementary School that left a teacher critically hurt last Friday, school officials announced Thursday afternoon.

School Board Chairwoman Lisa Surles-Law made the announcement during a 4:30 p.m. press conference to give an update on Newport News Public Schools' response to the shooting.

Surles-Law said the detectors will go to Richneck first, so they will be there when the building reopens. The rest of the detectors will go in every school in the district, with some schools having more than one.

All students, faculty and staff will have to walk through the detectors, officials said.

"The time is now. The time is now to put metal detectors in all of our schools," Surles-Law said.

The school system obtained 90 detectors after attaining and repurposing funds from the school budget.

Currently, school security randomly selects students to be checked with a metal detecting wand.

RELATED | Newport News police, school officials say 6-year-old allegedly shot teacher while she was instructing

The announcement comes less than a week after 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck, was shot by a 6-year-old student.

Police took the student into custody. Medics took Zwerner to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, but her condition improved over the weekend.

"We are truly sorry this has happened during our watch," Surles-Law said.

Amanda D’onofrio said, as the mother of a four and six-year-old in the school division, the news of the shooting scared her.

"I was very upset and very angry, quite frankly," she said. 

D'onofrio is also a tutor for a school division. She said she thinks this is a positive step forward, but it's coming a little too late.

"Quote frankly, this should have started happening after one of the two shootings we had last school year," she said, referring to the shooting at Heritage High School, where two students were hurt., and another shooting after a basketball game at Menchville High School, where one student from a different high school was killed.

Officials said, before the Richneck shooting, the school system hadn't discovered any guns in the schools since the 2021 Heritage High School shooting.

"However, when one shows up, we have to make a change," Surles-Law said.

She also outlined further steps officials will take to address school safety, including a safety stand down and the review of student conduct and discipline records.

"We are working closely with our administrators, teachers and staff to ensure that we are making the best decisions possible to protect the health and safety of our students while maintaining a high quality of education that our community has come to expect," Surles-Law said.

Without naming specifics, she said administrative changes have been proposed at Richneck after reviewing the preliminary results of the internal investigation.

Surles-Law also thanked students, families and employees for their patience as officials determine which steps need to be taken.

"Our house was in a crisis, so we have been caring for those inside," Surles-Law said.

Michelle Price, a spokesperson for Newport News Public Schools, said no timeline has been established for students to return to classes at Richneck.

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