RED LAKE, Minn. – Three weeks after a teen gunman carried out a deadly killing spree, the students and staff of Red Lake High School (search) returned to classes Tuesday for the first time.
District officials said they expected about half of the school's roughly 300 students wouldn't return right away because of emotional trauma lingering from the attack, but that others were ready for a return to normalcy.
"I think it's the perfect time to go back," sophomore Tom Barrett told reporters at a convenience store across the street from the school. "We have to be there for each other as a nation."
Journalists weren't allowed on school grounds, and administrators didn't immediately return calls seeking comment after school began.
Tuesday's return was to begin with a school assembly, with the school day to end at midday, Principal Chris Dunshee said earlier. Security was to include armed officers at the school and locked classrooms, and a police car patrolled the main parking lot.
Despite the enhanced security, acting superintendent Carol Aenne had said students would find a more relaxed atmosphere inside, with less attention paid to issues like tardiness.
Returning students used a different entrance, away from the main doors that 16-year-old gunman Jeff Weise (search) walked through. And their classes have been moved out of the high school's new wing, first used this school year and where the shootings took place, back to the old wing that had been slated for demolition, school officials said.
Weise, described as a loner and admirer of Adolf Hitler, shot to death his grandfather and the man's girlfriend, then went to his school and killed seven people, including five students and a teacher. He then committed suicide.
On Monday, two boys wounded in the deadly rampage on the Red Lake Indian Reservation (search) led the way as students returned to the school to gather their belongings and take part in a traditional Indian healing ceremony.
Elders from the Red Lake Indian Reservation spoke in Ojibwe, sang songs and offered prayers, according to students who attended Monday's ceremony. "I think it was a healing process for all of them," Dunshee said.
Some students said they were fearful but determined to return to class.
"This is where I went to school," said Misty Roy, a 15-year-old sophomore. "I know everybody here. I just want to stay here."
Jo Cobenais, a senior whose cousin was wounded in the attack, planned to attend class Tuesday but wants to transfer to an alternative learning program within the district.
She said some of her friends did not want to return "because they think other people are involved." Another teenager, Louis Jourdain, has been arrested as a possible accomplice of Weise's. Tribal chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. (search) has maintained his son is innocent.
Authorities have interviewed many teenagers as they investigate whether more students were involved.
Arleda Scott, 14, who visited the school Monday, said she wasn't worried about any more violence.
"I'm pretty sure that it's not going to happen," she said. "There's security everywhere."