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Richneck Elementary School to reopen for class on January 30

A text message sent by the school division to Richneck families states the school will "reopen for all students on Monday, Jan. 30."

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — More than two weeks after a 6-year-old student shot his teacher, school officials confirmed a reopening date at Richneck Elementary in Newport News.

A text message sent by the school division to Richneck families states the school will "reopen for all students on Monday, Jan. 30."

Richneck Elementary has been closed since Friday, January 6, after first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner was shot and seriously hurt by one of her students. City officials said the shooting was not accidental and that it happened in a classroom while Zwerner was teaching.

Mark Garcia said that for his family, there’s a lot riding on this return.

"In this next phase, it’s either our administration is going to show us what’s gonna happen in this next week, or we’re gonna go to another school and see another administration at work," he said.

As of last Thursday, families can pick up grab-and-go meals at Richneck consisting of breakfast, lunch, and a snack from 12 to 12:30 p.m. The school system is also providing individualized work packets for students to work on until the school reopens, which are available in tubs outside on the school's breezeway.

Garcia said those packets aren’t cutting it.

"It was a joke. First of all, my whole thing is if my son is gonna do work, he’s gonna get credit for it," he said. "My son has done all of that work in the first two weeks of summertime. This is not even updated work."

According to Garcia, his second-grade son is starting to understand and feel exactly what happened that day.

"A lot of these kids, they don’t really understand until later on in life when it starts to kick in. I caught my son crying last night and he says, ‘Dad, I’m sad’ and I said 'Why?' He said ‘Because I don’t want to die.’"

However, he said he has seen his son’s spirit lift as well as he gets more and more anxious to return to class and see his friends.

"Every day is a different day. For the most part my son... he’s doing okay. He’s laughing more, he’s joking more, he’s trying to keep his mindset going," said Garcia.

Ahead of the school reopening, a "Family Day" is being held Wednesday, Jan. 25 for Richneck students and their families to visit staff and participate in activities at the school.  It will be from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

A spokesperson for Riverside Health System told 13News Now that Zwerner was released from Riverside Regional Medical Center last week and is continuing her recovery as an outpatient.

The student remains in custody at a local hospital where he is undergoing evaluation and receiving care, according to Newport News police. Police Chief Steve Drew has said no criminal charges have been filed at this time, but that could change, depending on the course of an ongoing police investigation.

The Newport News School Board announced 90 new metal detectors will go in every school in the division, with some schools having more than one.

Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law said the detectors will go to Richneck first, so they will be there when the building reopens.  

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