Saugus High School students return to class for first time since shooting

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Monday, December 2, 2019
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Monday marked an emotional return for Saugus High School students and staff as classes resumed for the first time since the deadly shooting on campus last month.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- Monday marked an emotional return for Saugus High School students and staff as classes resumed for the first time since a student opened fire on classmates, killing two and wounding three others last month.

The William S. Hart Union High School District provided increased support with mental health counselors, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and even therapy dogs.

A message on the school's website said staff would be present at the gates to welcome students to the campus.

In addition to mental health counselors, support providers were also on campus, in classrooms and offices, and expected to be on hand "for as long as needed for the rest of the year," according to school officials.

"School staff will be busy supporting grieving students and trying to restore as much normalcy as possible during this difficult time," the school district said on its website. "For the first week back, we will limit access to campus to students, staff, and parents who need to contact the office."

Students voiced their gratitude for the support from the community at a press conference Monday morning.

"Please, please, please keep sending your support. Please keep sending your love. All of the kindness, all of the positivity has meant just worlds to us as individual Saugus students," senior Andrei Mojika said.

Another Saugus senior said the community has come together in the wake of the tragedy.

"I'm not going to lie, it's been very confusing and difficult these last two weeks. However, as unwelcome and unwanted this tragedy has been, the response from our community has surpassed all expectations," Skye Hanahmaikai said.

Authorities say that on the morning of Nov. 14, a student pulled a gun out of his backpack and began shooting, wounding five.

Two students, 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, were killed.

The suspect, Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow, who turned 16 years old the day of the shooting, shot himself in the head and died the next day.

Investigators are still searching for a motive.

The tragedy has hit the region hard, with a number of tributes held in the aftermath of the shooting.

"We will not forget, and we're going to keep those families in the forefront of our minds as well as those who were injured in the process," Deputy Superintendent Mike Kuhlman said.

School officials said 15 mental health counselors, 10 substitute teachers, sheriff's deputies and therapy dogs were on campus to provide support to students and staff.

"It's important as a district and as a community that we move forward now with faith and hope, courage and strength," Governing Board President Bob Jensen said.

Kuhlman said discussions were underway to enhance security measures, and officials were on campus to talk about upgrades.

Students will be dismissed early Monday and Tuesday at 12:21 p.m.

Students were allowed to return to the campus briefly days after the shooting to retrieve belongings that had been abandoned amid the chaos.

All schools in the district reopened shortly after the shooting except for Saugus High.