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Richneck Elementary School in Newport News closed all week after student shot teacher

An update from the elementary school principal on January 8 said that the teacher, Abby Zwerner, was awake and talking with family and friends.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Richneck Elementary School in Newport News will be closed from January 9 through January 13 to allow students and staff time to process and grieve. 

On January 6, a teacher was seriously hurt and considered to be in critical condition after being shot by a 6-year-old student. 

In a press conference that evening, city officials said the shooting was not accidental, that it happened in a first-grade classroom when a male student started arguing with a teacher and that the teacher's injuries were life-threatening. Everyone else in the school building -- faculty, staff, and students -- were safe.

The school was put on lockdown around 2 p.m. as police responded to reports of a shooting. Around 3 p.m., a spokesperson for Newport News police said there was no active shooter at the building on Tyner Drive. The school lockdown was lifted around 3:20 p.m., and officers were reuniting parents with their students at a reunification site. 

James Madison University confirmed on Saturday that the teacher shot by a 6-year-old student Friday is an alumna of their school. They said her name is Abby Zwerner.

In an update provided to families and staff of the school on January 8, Principal Briana Foster Newton further confirmed the teacher's identity in the following statement:

"First, our thoughts and prayers remain with Ms. Zwerner, who sustained serious injuries. We were happy to learn today that she is in stable condition and is talking with family and friends."

While the school is closed through January 13, a grab-and-go meal service will be available from 12 p.m. to 12:20 p.m. at McIntosh Elementary School each day. Families will be given free lunch and a breakfast snack for the next day. 

Additionally, on January 10 between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., students who left their belongings and are in need of them can come to the school and pick them up. 

Beyond physical needs, the school has also provided resources for parents and students to a 24-hour helpline that is staffed by therapists at the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board. 

You can call (757) 788-0635 to get connected to further resources or to simply talk about how you feel in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

Principal Newton is also planning to hold a Richneck Family Virtual Town Hall on January 12 at 6:30 p.m. to talk with parents and guardians about how the school plans to help students return to their normal schedules. The link for that townhall will be sent to parents on January 10. 

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