Saugus High School students returned to classes Monday, about 2 1/2 weeks after a 16-year-old student shot five classmates, killing two of them, before fatally wounding himself with a shot to the head.
“We will not forget — and we’re going to keep those families in the forefront of our minds …,” said Deputy Superintendent Mike Kuhlman of the William S. Hart Union High School District.
“Our objective today is for students to return to a normal routine, such as it is, to the best of our ability to establish a normal routine for students,” Kuhlman said. “And in order for that to happen, we have put a number of important supports in place at the district and in the school.”
Kuhlman said 15 mental health counselors will be on campus to assist students and parents. Some counselors will be assigned to a “wellness room” that was established in the past week, where students can go to talk; and other counselors will be assigned to classrooms.
Also, there will be 10 additional substitute teachers assigned to the campus to assist staff members. And arrangements have been made to provide a number of therapy dogs.
“I just wanted to share how thankful we are as a school and a district for all of the help of the people in the community,” Kuhlman said. “It is just overwhelming how people have embraced this school site and our district.”
Andrei Mojica, the school’s student body president, echoed those sentiments.
“I just want to keep re-emphasizing: please, please, please keep sending your support; please keep sending your love,” Mojica said. “All of the kindness, all of the just positivity that other communities have brought into our small tight-knit community has meant just worlds to all of us.”
In a statement on its website, the school district said: “For the first week back, we will limit access to campus to students, staff, and parents who need to contact the office. We ask that all offers of services and other donations, media questions, and non-urgent school related issues be directed to the district office in order to allow staff to focus on educating and supporting students.”
Saugus High School staff planned to be waiting at the gates to welcome students to the campus, school officials said. The only entry points will be the main office gate, the D building gate and the gate located near the bike racks.
Students at other campuses in the William S. Hart Union High School District, who have already resumed classes, will also have fewer ways to get onto campuses starting Monday, officials said.
The mental health and support providers will be on the Saugus High campus for as long as needed for the rest of the year, district officials said.
A sheriff’s deputy will be posted at sites throughout the school district with additional law enforcement presence around each campus, officials said. Campus supervisors and district office administrators will also be posted at schools to address the needs of students and families.
Saugus High students will be on a Minimum Day schedule Monday and Tuesday, with shorter class times leading to dismissal at 12:21 p.m.
“On behalf of the Saugus family, we want to thank everyone for the countless acts of kindness and compassion that have been extended by friends, neighbors, local churches, community groups, local, state and national leaders,” Kuhlman said earlier. “Let us take courage in knowing that we are stronger as we stand together to face this crisis.”
Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow, 16 and a junior at Saugus High, began the shooting shortly before 7:40 a.m. November 14, the day of his 16th birthday, killing two classmates and wounding three before turning the gun on himself. The community has since mourned the deaths of Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, and Dominic Blackwell, 14. Berhow died at a hospital the next day.
A week after the shooting, Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed the gun used in the attack was a “ghost gun,” assembled from parts and untraceable because it had no serial number.