ST. LOUIS – Nearly three months after a deadly school shooting, students and staff at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School returned to campus.
Students were greeted by Keisa Acres, the mother of Alexandria Bell, who died in the shooting.
Although Acres is still grieving, she wanted to help students overcome their fears about returning to the classroom.
Alexandria, 15, was one of two people killed that day.
Acres was among the crowd outside of the school Tuesday morning to welcome and cheer students on as they walked through the doors for the first time since the deadly shooting.
“Take your time, and process this minute by minute. It’s about the children, me standing in the gap for the parents that can’t be here. I would want somebody to do it for my daughter,” Acres said. “…There is no rulebook or guide to dealing with any of this. I live in my truth. Moment by moment.”
It’s a day that will live in their memories forever, when a former graduate opened fire inside the school on Oct. 24, 2022, killing Bell and 61-year-old teacher Jean Kuczka. Several others were hurt. The shooter was killed by police.
“It is bittersweet. I do have thoughts about the lives that were lost — my co-worker, and student,” CVPA Dean of Arts Manfret McGhee said. “On the same token, I’m glad that we are back. I think it’s good for us to get back among each other, so we can heal and move forward together.”
Extra security measures are in place at the school, including eight on-site security officers, some of whom are armed. There are also more police patrols in the neighborhood and additional cameras throughout the campus.
“Our challenge is to beware. Everybody coping differently and we want to make sure we are there and have everyone’s back,” said George Sells, spokesman for the St. Louis Public Schools.
Some students will continue going to school virtually.