The morning school routine felt different for many Saugus High School students Monday, as they returned to school for the first time since the deadly shooting that left three dead and three others wounded.
“As we enter our campus today, we know that things will not be the same,” said senior Tyler Nilson, student body vice president, adding, “likely in the future, they will never be the same.”
These first moments, as students step back onto campus to resume their classes, are important for the Saugus community, Nilson said during a news conference held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints next door to Saugus High, where the media was assembled in order to allow the students to return to school with minimal distraction.
“Saugus High School experienced a tragedy, the likes of which it had never seen before, and in the wake of that shooting, we’ve experienced bonding moments of unity, love and compassion, the likes of which we have never seen before,” Nilson added.
Skye Hanamaikai, senior class president, agreed, adding that this has allowed the students, staff and parents who were drastically affected to bond closer together.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been very confusing and difficult these last two weeks. However, as unwelcome and unwanted this tragedy has been, the response from our community has surpassed any expectations,” Hanamaikai said.
While Andrei Mojica, student body president, asked that everyone keep sending their love, kindness and positivity, he also emphasized the importance of taking care of one another.
“It’s just so crucial to talk to someone, to make sure that each of us feels valued and that everyone validates themselves,” he said. “We need to take some time to find ourselves again and try to feel some sense of normality … It’s going to be really difficult, but I know that, through this sense of community, once more we will be OK.”
“In the midst of this tragedy, I think a lot of us have learned to open our hearts to anyone, no matter who they are, because in the end, we all need the support,” added Chris Tanaka, junior class president.
The William S. Hart Union High School District’s objective is to allow students to return to their normal routines, according to Deputy Superintendent Michael Kuhlman.
“It’s our mission to take care of the students and the staff in the wake of what happened these past few weeks,” Kuhlman said.
In order to do so, the district has expanded enforcement on campus, assigned a number of additional staff, including campus supervisors, counselors and substitute teachers, as well as deployed therapy dogs throughout the campus.
“Even prior to this tragedy, we had established mental health and wellness as a priority for our district,” Kuhlman added. “We have 50 therapists who are permanently deployed on all the campuses throughout our district to be able to provide the mental health needs of our students. We know that it’s not enough, especially in the wake of what happened these past few weeks, but it’s a start.”
As the Saugus community begins to move forward, Bob Jensen, president of the district’s governing board, said the district wants Saugus High to remain a safe place.
“Our goal is to provide a safe environment and have our schools be a place where learning, understanding and growth can take place as each of our students see fit,” he said. “It’s important as a district and as a community that we move forward now with faith and hope,
courage and strength.”