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PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Students in Pickerington went back to school Wednesday for the first time since Thursday when a student’s stepfather died by suicide inside Ridgeview Junior High School.
The district decided to give all students Friday off while Monday and Tuesday were previously scheduled staff professional development days.
Drop off was busy Wednesday morning with police standing by as buses rolled in and parents dropped off their kids. Brooklyn Brooks has two kids at Ridgeview Junior High who were in the building when the gun was fired.
Brooks’ daughter was locked down in a classroom, but her son was in the lunchroom at the time. When they heard the shot, Brooks says staff told her son to start running. She got a call from her son saying there was an intruder in the school, and he was in a nearby neighborhood after taking off with some of his classmates.
“Just talking about keeping in mind everybody’s feelings, not just your own,” says Brooks. “Everybody is in this together and to just be open to talking if you need to. To any of the teachers or the staff or the counselors. Just try to stay positive.”
Community members gathered at the school Tuesday night. Parents and other adults wanted to make sure they felt good about returning.
“For us, it was reassuring to be around other people who’ve been impacted by this and jut kind of have that sense of community, that we’re all together in this and ready to kind of go back to school tomorrow,” said Courtney Massey.
Before the prayer circle, the last time Massey’s seventh grade twins were at the was Thursday when they were being evacuated.
According to police, a student’s stepfather died by suicide inside the building. District leaders said no students witnessed what happened, but they still wanted to give the students time.
“I think there’s a lot of anxiety going into tomorrow, so just to be around other people and have that sense of peace with the prayer circle was really nice,” she said.
Pastor Charles Newman organized the prayer circle. He has a son who attends Ridgeview and said he wants to make sure all students feel good about going back to class.
“Together, at the core, we are Pickerington and it’s important to just have this moment together with family,” he said. “So tonight is just a family gathering of Pickerington families as one big family to say we’re sticking together.”
“It was really peaceful and like being back at the school after, because we haven’t been back at the school since Thursday,” said Myleaka Massey. “So, I think it was just nice.”
District leadership declined interview requests, but did say they are looking forward to having students back in class.