NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Jeremy Johnson’s two teenage kids are still processing that terrifying day inside Heritage High School last month.
Johnson said they were full of fear as they were hiding in their classrooms after Newport News Police said a 15-year-old student opened fire inside the building wounding two of his classmates.
“I’m just proud of all the kids because as afraid as they were, they stuck together; they communicated,” said Johnson.
The plan now is to bring students back in the classroom. They have been learning virtually since September 23.
Tuesday, school board members discussed revising safety policies to return kids back to school. While there’s no specific start date yet, Superintendent Dr. George Parker said they will gradually bring them back - starting with teachers, then Huntington Middle School students and lastly, high schoolers.
“We still have to work with the comfort level and emotional state of our staff, for students and families, as we work through some of the details,” said Dr. Parker.
Board members proposed increasing random classroom and bookbag searches, using handheld metal detectors when kids step off the bus, and using walk-thru metal detectors at the high school more often.
They also want to add more metal detectors and increase the number of Heritage High School security officers from four to six. One security officer will be assigned to Huntington.
“I definitely think they need to ramp up the metal detectors,” Johnson said. “I feel like we all were blessed and got lucky in this situation.”
Johnson said he wants his children back in school as soon as possible but respects board members for taking their time to carefully craft a plan on bringing kids back.
“My main thing is, I will say what I’m happy about is that they have a plan at all,” he said. “There is a plan in place.”
The school also plans on developing a School Safety Team and will continue to offer emotional support services to students and staff. Proposals also include training staff on mental health.
“All we can do is try,” said Johnson. “Outside of prayer, there’s no way to stop any major, crazy thing from happening but we have to put those safety mechanisms in place.”
Tuesday’s meeting was just a discussion. Many of the plans, such as ramping up random searches will be put in place when kids are back at school.
Meantime, student athletes will be able to get back on the field soon. Athletics will resume this week with support of a crisis team.