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Santa Fe Students Start New School Year with Emotional First Day since Shooting

“There’s nothing that could have truly prepared me for going back in a classroom setting,” a student says

Memorial items hang on a tree near Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, a day after eight students and two teachers were killed when a 17-year-old classmate allegedly opened fire at the school.

The night before the first day of her senior year at Santa Fe High, Megan McGuire said it was hard to fall asleep.

She’d been practicing volleyball and joining pep rallies over the summer, plus volunteering with the nonprofit she helped start, the Orange Generation, to prevent gun violence.

But Monday marked the first time McGuire was back in class where a gunman killed eight students and two teachers last May. And when she went to her calculus class in the same room where the alarm sounded last May 18, it was “weird.”

“There’s nothing that could have truly prepared me for going back in a classroom setting,” McGuire said. “It was just a little strange. I wasn’t necessarily nervous because I knew it would be different compared to all the other first days of school.”

The first thing that was different were metal detectors. She thought she got there early at 6:45 in the morning with her brother, who’s starting his freshman year. But already there was a long line to go through the detectors in the auditorium. McGuire said it took until about 8 a.m. — about an hour after the first bell — for all students to be scanned. Pens, keys and binders kept setting off the alarm.

Other things that are different, McGuire said, are no senior privileges and definitely no wandering in the hallway.

Like other school districts in Greater Houston and Texas, Santa Fe has hardened its campus, trying to increase security to avoid more violence. The school board spent over $1 million over the summer in upgrades, including bulletproof glass for the lobby, new locks on doors and panic buttons.

 

McGuire said that she’s OK with the new security measures if it makes other students and parents feel safer.

As for the deadly shooting last May, McGuire said that she didn’t hear any teachers or administrators officially address the incident.

“It was kind of this underlying thing that happened that no one wanted to mention,” she said.

It still came up in conversation, though.

“We all were talking about how it was a hard, long summer and how everything is strange — It’s going to be a very strange year. But that’s just to be expected, you know?”

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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