Houston: Nearly three and half months after a mass shooting at a school in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers, students in the small city located in Texas returned to classrooms for their first day of the new school year.
Also on Tuesday, students and staff members in schools across Texas were asked to wear maroon to show support for their Uvalde counterparts, reports Xinhua news agency.
The Robb Elementary School, where the shooting took place on May 24 during the last week of the past school year, has been closed since then.
Authorities announced in June that it would be demolished.
Children who were enrolled in Robb will now instead go to another two elementary schools in the city.
A virtual academy is also available for families who don’t want to send their children back to school. Before the shooting, Robb served about 540 students in grades 2-4.
The start of the new school year in Uvalde was pushed back to give local schools extra time to take a number of new security measures, ranging from upgrading doors and door locks to installing additional security cameras and erecting new 8-foot, non-scalable perimeter fencing at the elementary and junior high school campuses.
Also, every school in the district has received upgraded Wi-Fi and communication.
On the school district’s website, a new tracker is in place for parents to check the progress of the new safety upgrades.
The school district is also enhancing annual rapid response training for all staff, providing additional training for them on updated security policies and procedures, according to its website.
Superintendent Hal Harrell said at a Monday school board meeting that school police will support 33 Texas Department of Public Safety officers stationed across campuses this year.
The state police, he said, will be primarily responsible for school safety and security.
However, the security upgrades aren’t easing fears among many families and community members in Uvalde, who show little faith that adding more police officers to monitor school property will do much good, referring to the 376 law enforcement agents who responded to the shooting and failed to intervene for 74 minutes.
“Those were the people that failed us. They didn’t protect the children or the staff,” a parent said at the Monday meeting.
“You’ve dug a big hole… You’ve got to get out of this hole someway somehow,” another parent said.
Harrell acknowledged last month that trust has been broken between the community and district leadership in the wake of the shooting and “it’s going to take a while to regain that trust”.
While the Uvalde shooting was the deadliest so far this year, there have been at least 28 school shootings in 2022 that resulted in injuries or deaths.
There have been at least 120 such shootings since 2018.