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sheriff's deputy guarding the school
Students Will Face Classrooms Thursday

A sheriff's deputy stands guard outside Columbine High School. Columbine students will attend classes at another high school by week's end. (ABCNEWS.com)


By Jonathan Dube
ABCNEWS.com
L I T T L E T O N,   Colo.,   April 25 —The thought of returning to school frightens Columbine High School students. But what scares them even more is being alone.
    
And so, many say they’re looking forward to Thursday, when they’ll return to classes at a nearby school — just nine days after two peers went on a shooting spree at Columbine, killing 12 students and a teacher.
     “I can’t wait,” says Jessica Brown, 17, a junior. “I want to go back with all my friends and teachers because we can try to comfort each other.”
    
laura greenFreshman Laura Green says It would be hard to go back but that's where we belong. (ABCNEWS.com)
School officials worked out a plan to share the Chatfield High School building, a few miles away, so that they could get Columbine students back in classrooms as soon as possible. Chatfield has traditionally been Columbine’s school rival, with the Chatfield-Columbine football game being the biggest of the year.
     But since the tragedy thousands of students from area schools have brought flowers and notes to the memorials to show their support, and Columbine students say they’re touched that their rival is opening its doors to them.
     Chatfield students will take classes in the morning, and Columbine students will attend in the afternoons. Under a modified schedule, students will have seven 40-minute periods. School days will be shorter, but students won’t be losing an entire half-day of instruction time.

Fears That It’s Not Over
“We think it is very important that they are together,” school superintendent Jane Hammond says. “The students are saying, ‘We want to be back together. We want to be in school. We want to be with our teachers.’”
    Not all students feel that way, though. Some say they see no point in going back to school so quickly after the massacre, because no one will be able to concentrate on work. Others say they no longer feel schools are safe places.
     “I don’t think they should be sending us back to school right away,” says Meghan Campbell, 16, a junior. “I think Thursday’s too soon. Not everyone’s going to go. I’ve talked to a lot of my friends and we’re scared to go back to school, because school is where it happened and how do we know it won’t happen again?”
     Many students are particularly afraid because of an e-mail that surfaced last week warning of more deaths to come. And while investigators say they doubt the killers really sent it, that thought gives students little consolation.
     “I think we’re just all scared that something else might happen because they said it’s not over yet,” says Sara Houy, 16, a sophomore. “I know I don’t want to go.”

Security Is Tight
But officials say students should not worry, because security is tighter than it has ever been. All school buildings in the Jefferson County School System will have increased police patrols, as well as personnel guarding every entrance.
     At Chatfield High School, students will be required to show picture identification to enter the building. Since many Columbine students left wallets behind in backpacks at the school, the state Department of Transportation is offering them duplicate driver’s licenses for free.
     Other high schools in the Denver area also will remain on alert this week, with increased patrols. At least three Denver high schools received bomb threats last week and the school system is sweeping all its schools for bombs and weapons. Nothing has been found so far.
     Many area school districts also have reviewed crisis and disaster plans with local police and notified parents of increased security. Students will finish the school year at Chatfield and return to classes at the Columbine building in the fall.

Returning to the Scene
Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis said he spoke with several hundred students about returning to the building.
     “They’re ready, they want to go back to Columbine,” he says. “ … They told me, ‘Do not let them take Columbine away from us.’” Students say walking away from Columbine would be like giving in to the killers.
     “I want to graduate from Columbine because if I run from it that’s not going to solve anything,” said Laura Green, a freshman. “It would be hard to go back but that’s where we belong.”
     Not everyone agrees. A number of local organizations have starting trying to raise money to tear down the Columbine building and rebuild in a new location. They want to put up a permanent memorial where the building stands.
     But officials say that’s not a realistic option. They say, though, that students who don’t want to return to the site of Tuesday’s massacre can transfer to another school in the district.
     Some students insist they’ll never enter the building again, no matter what. They say doing so would only revive the sounds of the bullets ricocheting off lockers and the sights of bloodied friends.
     “We’d be walking in fear,” says Karissa Mareum, who watched peers get shot and killed in the cafeteria.

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