By JOE MANDAK
MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Students planned to gather in prayer and in support of one another on the football field of a Pittsburgh-area high school where classes were scheduled to resume Wednesday, a week after a mass stabbing.
School and public safety officials have been working toward getting things back to normal at Franklin Regional High School since 21 students and a school security guard were stabbed just before classes began a week ago, a county official said.
On Monday, teachers met with a crisis intervention specialist before spending the day at the school getting re-acclimated to their surroundings. On Tuesday, parents and students were invited to an open house of sorts where they were able to tour the building, which had been cleaned and restored after the bloody attack. Members of the community gathered at a local park Tuesday night for a prayer service.
Suspect Alex Hribal, 16, is being held in a juvenile facility but is charged as an adult with aggravated assault and attempted homicide in the stabbings. Four students remain hospitalized.
Students at the middle and elementary schools, which share a campus with the high school, returned to classes a day after the attack. Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County Emergency Management Agency, said this week has been marked by events preparing for Wednesday’s return to a normal schedule at the high school, culminating in a pre-dawn gathering on the football field organized by students.
“Getting back to school today is going to be a very good thing for them,” Stevens said.
About 30 members of the Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church next to the school showed up to support the returning students, lining the street near the high school’s entrance. Many held signs saying such things as “F R U are loved,” “It’s a new day,” “Just know you are not alone,” “Prayers for healing,” and “Courage.”
Karen Ingersoll said she has two children who graduated from the school and two daughters who attend it.
“I think they were ready to go back,” she said.
She said her younger daughter still can’t sleep alone after witnessing some of the attack, but she expects that she will recover eventually. She and her daughters came to the open house, which she believes helped.
“I feel so bad for the teachers. Some of them looked so shell-shocked,” she said.
She said therapy dogs present at the open house will be at the school all week.
The school’s spring break is this weekend, so students will attend classes Wednesday and Thursday, will be off Friday through Monday and will return Tuesday.
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