After horrific shooting, teachers return to their classrooms

2018-02-24 08:19
Parents meet at a hotel in Coral Springs to pick up their children, following a shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. (Jim Rassol, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Parents meet at a hotel in Coral Springs to pick up their children, following a shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. (Jim Rassol, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

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Miami — In the right-hand drawer of a desk at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a file that teacher Ernest Rospierski desperately wants back.

It's full of thank-you letters from his students and their parents over the years.

"It's my bad-day file, my it's-been-a-long-day file," Rospierski said. "If I have a bad day, I open it up."

The last time he was in his classroom at the Parkland school was a horrific day: Valentine's Day, when a former student shot and killed 17 people on campus.

The building where 14 students, a teacher, a football coach and the school's athletic director were slain will be torn down. Before that happens, 30 classrooms must be cleared of teaching materials, personal items and memories.

"Teachers spend half their lives in their rooms," Rospierski said.

His desk was full of lesson plans, family photographs and souvenirs his students have brought him from their travels. His students would expect to see these things when they return to class next week, even though he'll have to relocate his courses in world geography and AP European history.

Preparing to return to campus on Friday, he said he needed to read his bad-day file.

"I want that back," he said.

Teachers were told they could return to the school on Friday to collect belongings from classrooms that have been off-limits since the slayings more than a week ago. The school plans an orientation on Sunday for teachers and students.

The Miami Herald reported that Assistant Principal Denise Reed stood at the school's entrance on Friday. "It's great to see your smiling faces," she said, leaning into the driver's window of an arriving employee.

Teachers maneuvered their vehicles through a heavy police presence, orange cones blocking off parts of the road and a swarm of TV trucks and cameras. The school's flags flew at half-staff, and the parking lot was still full of bicycles left behind in a panic as students fled the shooting on foot.

"Good morning! Love you guys," Reed told a car full of teachers.

Two golden retrievers wearing blue service vests could be seen entering the building, likely therapy dogs for the teachers.

History teacher Ivy Schamis said she planned to put off her return until Monday, after processing all the funerals she attended over the last week and exploring the possibility of bringing a therapy dog.

"Give me another room and I'll teach," she said.

She had been teaching a class about the Holocaust when the shooter fired into her classroom. A big yellow banner stating "Never Again" had been hanging in her classroom even as students hid from gunfire beneath their desks.

Schamis wants the same banner hanging in her next classroom.

"That's a Holocaust banner and now that's what our slogan is becoming after this tragedy," she said.

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