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Saturday October 31st, 2020 6:05PM

The Latest: Superintendent says most students returned

By The Associated Press
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PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the return of students and teachers to classes following the killings of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School(all times local):

1:20 p.m.

Broward County Schools superintendent Robert Runcie said about 95 percent of the student body of 3,293 has returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two weeks after a mass shooting killed 17 people.

He called Wednesday's attendance "outstanding." Runcie added that there were about 150 counselors at the campus to offer support to staff and students, as well as 40 therapy dogs.

Almost all of the county's high school principals also came to the school Wednesday to support the staff as school reopened for a half-day "modified schedule."

Runcie said he would use the words "flexible, support and love" to describe what's happening at the school this week. He added that a heavy law enforcement presence will be at the school for the remainder of the year.

The superintendent said only about 15 students and four of the 215 employees have inquired about transferring to other schools.

___

12 p.m.

Students who returned to school two weeks after 17 people were killed at their Florida school are leaving the campus after a half day.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students were greeted Wednesday morning by police officers carrying military style rifles and an array of counselors and therapy dogs. They missed two weeks of school following the Valentine's Day mass shooting that took place in a freshman building just before dismissal.

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is in the Broward County Jail, charged with 17-counts of first-degree murder. The shooting has thrust many of the surviving students into the center of the nation's gun debate.

But Wednesday was all about healing and getting back into a regular routine, albeit a shortened school day.

___

9:20 a.m.

Students are returning to the Florida high school where 17 were killed in a shooting two weeks ago, but they've been told to leave their backpacks at home.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School principal Ty Thomas said in a tweet that "our focus is on emotional readiness and comfort not curriculum: so there is no need for backpacks."

Armed officers were on hand as students returned to the school Wednesday morning.

___

8:30 a.m.

Dick's Sporting Goods will immediately end sales of assault-style rifles in its stores and won't sell guns to anyone under 21 years old following the school massacre in Parkland, Florida.

Dick's Chairman and CEO Edward Stack said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that after the shooting the company "felt it needed to do something."

Stack says that the accused gunman, 19-year-old Nickolas Cruz, had purchased a gun at a Dick's store, but not the one used at the school shooting, even though all existing rules were followed. Stack says the system that's in place won't stop sales to dangerous people and said lawmakers must do something.

Stack said Dick's is prepared for any potential backlash, but won't change its policies on gun sales.

____

7:40 a.m.

One of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who has become a leader in the anti-assault weapon campaign says he felt scared when he saw a photo of a police officer armed with a rifle outside his school.

David Hogg said it was a picture of education in fear in this country. Hogg has been calling for an assault weapon ban since the Valentine's Day massacre killed 17 people at his school.

Hogg has spent the last two weeks making the rounds on network talk shows and speaking with legislators in Tallahassee, seeking gun legislation.

Students returned to the school Wednesday for the first time since the deadly shooting.

___

7:15 a.m.

Members of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association handed carnations out to students as they entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two weeks after a former student gunned down 17 people inside the freshman building.

For Madison Geller, Wednesday offered an opportunity to get back into a routine, in spite of her fears.

"When I walk in there, I'm going to replay the whole thing in my head. But we have to come here and try to learn," the high school junior said. "This week we will try to be comfortable and get back into the same routine."

Angelyse Perez, a senior, said returning offers a chance for everyone to "get through this and be together."

"But I'm graduating," she said. "I just want to get out of here."

___

6:30 a.m.

Teachers and students are arriving early at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, their first day back after an expelled classmate with an AR-15 killed 17 people in a Valentine's Day massacre that has profoundly altered the lives of survivors.

A long line of cars bringing people back to the school in Parkland, Florida is being guided by police as dozens of television trucks and vehicles camp out nearby.

Only students, parents and staff are being allowed through a security cordon. The main entrance is covered with a sign saying "Welcome Back Eagles."

___

2 a.m.

The walkway leading onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is lined with flowers and photographs, memorials to the 17 students and teachers killed in a Valentine's Day massacre that forever altered their lives and thrust them into the center of the nation's gun debate.

Alexis Grogan, a 15-year-old sophomore, was among those planning to wear maroon, a Stoneman Douglas color, among other things honoring those who died. She said she's nervous after losing her friend Luke Hoyer, who sat two seats behind her in Spanish. Still, she says support from her fellow students and their fight to strengthen gun control laws is keeping her strong.

Relatives of the victims kept up pressure Tuesday in Florida's capital with emotional testimony during a legislative hearing to discuss raising the age limit to buy long guns from 18 to 21.

The bill also would create a program that allows teachers who receive law-enforcement training and are deputized by the local sheriff's office to carry concealed weapons in the classroom, if also approved by the school district. The school's superintendent has spoken out firmly against that measure.

___

Follow the AP's complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting .

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