SANTA FE, Texas – When students walked through the doors at Santa Fe High School for their first day of the new school year, they were greeted with small gifts and a show of support.
“This morning we handed out over 600 stickers,” said Stacy Howard David, a Santa Fe High school parent, and a member of Santa Fe Tribe Moms. “We handed out to everyone pencils with joy messages on them and told everyone, ‘Hi, welcome back. Have a great day!’”
Emotions were running high. Not far from anyone’s mind were the two teachers and eight students who will never walk through the door again. Their lives were taken in May by a student who allegedly opened fire inside the school.
“It's straight-up emotional for everybody,” said Lesley Darnell, with Pops Community Committee and a Santa Fe High parent. “First day of school for everyone else. We have eight moms that don't have that luxury and that is heartbreaking.”
Over the summer, new security measures were put in place. The school is now equipped with metal detectors, special locks on classroom doors and more safety officers in the district. Still, some students said they were nervous.
“Some of them are OK and some are still a little nervous, but we just reassure them that they are going to the safest school in the state of Texas,” said Dwayne “Cowboy” Martinez, a Santa Fe High parent. “Hands-down, that's really what I believe in my heart.”
"Better than I thought it would be," said junior Sarah Salazar said of this first day of school.
She was inside the art room when she was shot and severely wounded.
Salazar was the last of the injured to be released from the hospital. She's had five surgeries with more to come. She said her biggest worry was having to go home early because of pain from her left shoulder, which is being held together by screws.
"This morning I felt a little weird but it's always like that on the first day," she said.
For those students who may find the day difficult, there's a network of support. Counselors and parents stood by, ready to help.
“If you can't make it through the day to do your school work, it doesn't matter,” said Howard David. “I can get teachers to come to the resiliency center, to come and help you get your work done.”
With school starting, some parents feel it will also help bring healing and closure.
“My son couldn't sleep because he was excited about being with his friends,” Darnell said. “They have wanted to be together all summer.”
There are still some items that Santa Fe High and the district are looking for.
For example, Howard David said Tribe Moms are collecting binders with plastic rings so students can go through the metal detectors with ease. (Binders with metal rings set off the metal detectors.) For that and other school supplies, you can donate to Santa Fe Strong Resiliency Center.
The Santa Fe ISD police department would like additional radios for its new security officers, which cost about $3,000 each.