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As students return to Richneck Elem., shooting remains top of mind: 'Kind of nervous coming back'

Posted at 8:19 PM, Jan 30, 2023

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Richneck Elementary School in Newport News is now allowing students to return to the classroom, roughly three weeks after police say a six-year-old boy intentionally shot a first-grade teacher there.

The day brought forth a range of emotions for staff and students, including Retaal Mahmoud, a fifth grader at the school.

"It felt pretty good, but I was kind of nervous coming back, but it was pretty good," she said.

When she came to school, she and every other student and staff member had to walk through newly installed metal detectors. All students were given a clear backpack to use for the rest of the school year.

The end of the day brought a sigh of relief to Suzanne Turner, picking up her son Cyrus, a kindergartener at the school.

“It was a mix of emotion. You know we’re all ready to start getting back to normal but just dropping him off, but just reliving everything. It’s a mix of emotions but ultimately, we’re happy to get back and start our day again at Richneck.”

More school resource officers and other safety upgrades are said to come to both Richneck Elementary and other schools in the district, with at least 90 new metal detectors said to be installed at all school levels.

“I’m angry it wasn’t done sooner, but it’s being done now. At least, that’s good," Turner said.

A lawyer representing 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, the teacher shot and critically injured that January 6th day, said school administrators were notified multiple times about a possible threat prior to the shooting.

Zwerner is said to be in stable condition after suffering injuries to her chest and hand.

Last week, the Newport News School Board voted to remove sitting Superintendent George Parker III. Both the principal and assistant principal of the elementary school at the time are now no longer at the school.

The investigation is ongoing, as police work to uncover what led up to a six-year-old shooting a teacher at the school.

“It’s hard not knowing and I get that," said Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew. "I would ask that they have a little bit of patience. Let us work through this, we’re not even a month into this, but I want to make sure that we do a thorough investigation on all sides.”

Parents like Retaal's father, Essam, are left with more questions than answers, hoping the changes will prevent another shooting from happening at his child's school.

"What’s going to happen tomorrow, that’s what we’re thinking about. I don’t want to be in fear all the time, just come to school, okay what happened? What’s going on? But hopefully, everything will be okay," Mahmoud said.

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