PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Fourteen days after a shooting rampage claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students returned to campus with heavy hearts but with purpose and resolve.
Angie, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, said going back to class is “a little weird.”
“It’s a little nerve-wracking that we’re back on campus,” said Angie. “It’s been awhile. You know it’s going to be different. We’re going to have different things going on. I’m not just walking into school to do math or do English, but you know, it is what it is.”
The Broward County Police Benevolent Association was on scene greeting students with flowers as they made their way back into their classrooms.
“As the kids walk into the school, we’ll hand them a flower, we’ll hand them a bottle of water to say, ‘We’re here to support you,’ said Rodney Skirvin, the Vice President of the Broward County PBA.
Deputies and officers from departments all across South Florida were also present, standing tall and offering support to ensure students felt a sense of security.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced earlier his week, plans to spend $500 million toward school safety. “We’ve got to invest in metal detectors, we’ve got to invest in bulletproof glass, we’ve got to invest in steel doors.”
With safety being the biggest concern, some parents said they had a hard time dropping their kids off at school, but they know that they need to get back to normal.
“I’m so nervous because not a lot has changed,” said Tessa Thomas, a mother dropping her son off for the first time in two weeks. “We can’t fix what happened but we can definitely fix moving forward, so a change to give these children some form of security is needed.”
“They need to get back into the swing of things,” said another mother as she held back tears. “It’s some tough stuff. Too close — it’s too close.”
Members of the Parkland community showed their emotional support by lining the inside of the school with banners wishing students a warm welcome back.
Angie added that the nationwide support for her and her classmates has been felt. “It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s like, we’re still around. We’re still kicking. We’re still sending a message. Don’t forget about us because we can’t forget those who we lost.”
Family members and complete strangers also stood outside of the school with signs — some bringing their therapy dogs and even a pony. One woman held up a sign that read “Free Pony Kisses” all in hopes to bring a sense of comfort to the students.
“My brother is inside the school right now, and I want to show my support by you know, coming to the school and supporting all the students,” said Nia Hill. “I was scared to see them go back, but I’m grateful that you know, there’s a bunch of police out here protecting them.”
“I’m nervous, but I’m just happy to see [everyone] come together and support each other,” said one sophomore. “I just think we all need to get back into normalcy.”
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told 7 News the school will have extra counselors on hand for the return of the students. “Yeah, our students need to be with each other, they need to be in school,” he said. “Our teachers, they love our kids, and that’s gonna help everyone I think really move forward.”
Classes officially began at 7:40 a.m. However, the school will only hold half-day sessions from Wednesday to Friday.
“We’re giving kids flexibility, so we can remove as many of the things that they need to worry about, so they can focus on the healing process,” said Runcie.
Principal Ty Thompson took to Twitter ahead of the first day back, to remind students that Wednesday was not going to be about the books but rather beginning the healing process.