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Classes resumed today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., exactly two weeks since 17 children and adults were killed there. Not every student was ready to come back. Some are still recovering from their injuries. But most kids did show up, eager to resume some sort of normal routine, as NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: When students arrived this morning, they were greeted by a throng of news media and hundreds of law enforcement officers. The officers were there to send a message that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is now one of the safest schools in America. Many of the students, like senior Maria Stevens, said they were ready to go back but were still a little anxious.
MARIA STEVENS: Yeah, I'm nervous but not about the security 'cause I know we're going to be safe. It's more about the energy that is going to be around.
ALLEN: Here's her friend Lucia Salman.
LUCIA SALMAN: There's going to be, like, a lot of confusion and, like, sadness and stuff like that that's going to, like, remind us but at the same time help us. So it's very confusing for us.
ALLEN: Today students began the day by returning to their fourth period class. That's the class they were in and the students they were with during the shooting. Salman said one of the worst things about going back to school is the people you'll no longer see in classrooms and the hallways.
SALMAN: The friends that we lost in the classes - I have, like, two of them in my classes. And it's going to be very off seeing the teachers in there and the students sitting in there and not them. So it's going to be very difficult for us.
ALLEN: The building where 17 people were shot and killed two weeks ago will no longer be used. It's going to be demolished and replaced. With less space available, school administrators had to draw up a new master schedule to find rooms for all the classes and students.
There were some 150 grief counselors on hand today to help students, plus lots of therapy dogs, also ponies and a goat. The school superintendent in Broward County, Robert Runcie, says the therapy animals and the counselors will be there as long as students need them.
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ROBERT RUNCIE: The words I would use to describe this week are flexibility, support and love. That's what we're trying to provide to our staff, our students to get through this period, to work our way back into some sense of normalcy.
ALLEN: Runcie called today's resumption of classes at the high school a major milestone. He was especially pleased with the turnout. All but 170 of the school's nearly 3,300 students returned to classes, an attendance rate of 95 percent. The school district has told students and staff it will facilitate transfers to other schools. So far, Runcie said, only 15 students and four employees have expressed interest.
Among the students not present are those still recovering from injuries from the shooting. Seventeen-year-old Maddy Wilford was released from the hospital just last week after critical injuries from three gunshot wounds. Outside the school this morning, junior Addison Jost said she was ready to come back, but some of her friends weren't. For many, she said, the grief is still too fresh.
ADDISON JOST: If you lose your best friend and if you lose people that you think you're going to grow up and have kids with and your kids are going to be friends and - if you have all these plans and all the sudden they're ruined or even if you're just not seeing usual faces around, it can be pretty traumatic. And then there are the kids who got shot and who saw people get shot and saw blood. And obviously they're scared or uncomfortable.
ALLEN: While school resumes in Parkland, Runcie and other officials say they like some of the measures being considered by Florida's governor and lawmakers in the wake of the shooting. They're proposing spending $400 million on additional mental health services to hire more school resource officers and to upgrade security at the schools. Runcie said he was inspired and amazed by the political activism of the school's students and the impact they're having in Tallahassee and Washington.
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RUNCIE: So hopefully out of this tragedy, we will see some real change finally in this country so that we will never see this again.
ALLEN: Runcie said in recent days, many students have told him they were eager to return. After weeks of tragedy, today he says he was pleased to see high-fives, hugs and smiles. Greg Allen, NPR News, Parkland, Fla.
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