NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Students at Noblesville West Middle School are in class for the final day of the school year just a week after a gunman opened fire.
All week long, school officials have done their best to keep students at ease, focusing on team building and counseling.
“The focus was on counseling and team building. It was important for students, parents and staff to be back in the building and to be together before summer break. It has been helpful to our healing,” a district spokesperson said.
Seventh grade science teacher Jason Seaman was in class this week to support the students in his second period science class who witnessed the shooting. He is being hailed a hero, and doing well despite being shot three times while disarming the shooter.
He spoke publicly about the attack for the first time on Monday. “I’m still processing much of what has happened, but I can say with absolute certainty that I am proud to be a Miller,” Seaman said.
Students said seeing Seaman back and interacting with students was inspirational.
"I thought honestly that he wouldn’t come back because of what happened. But it’s amazing that he came back, and he’s showing us that it’s OK and even I came back from what happened to me,” 7th grader Kylie Cook said.
Cook added that she found the format for the week's classes to be more therapeutic for students. Adding that the experience went a long way towards allowing students to feel like life was returning to "normal," and that they could feel more at ease before the next school year.
"People would still think about what happened on Friday, and it would just end up playing over and over again in their head and it wouldn’t be the normal school and fun and being able to be a kid," she said.
Missing from the class picture is 13-year-old Ella Whistler who is still recovering after getting shot multiple times. Her family says she is improving, and she is no longer in critical condition.
On Thursday, Noblesville Schools sent a note to parents telling them that the district would be examining their safety protocols heading into the next school year. Parents like Lisa Duell say the district needs to make sure that all options are on the table.
"We’re definitely unified in the fact that we all want something done, but we want it to be meaningful," Duell said.
Duell is a leader with the school safety advocacy group Saving Our Students. Prior to the shooting, she says her group had been begging the district to improve safety at its schools.
Duell says one of her biggest concerns is that the district employs the use of portable trailers as classrooms outside some of its schools. She went on to say the trailers are too exposed and don't offer the protection for the students inside that a brick and mortar building does.
"The district along with state and local officials need to focus on providing more resources for teachers, staff and resource officers district wide," she said. “Clearly we can do much more, because no teacher of ours should ever have to step in front of a bullet..ever."
Duell says the amount of support she and her group have received from those in, and outside of the community has been overwhelming.
One of those supporters is Max Schachter, the father of Alex Schachter who was killed during the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida.
Schachter created the "Safe Schools for Alex" campaign, which supports the efforts of a nationwide school safety commission and a school safety implementation model.
"We don’t want another Parkland, we don’t want another Santa Fe, so if there’s anything we can do to make your school safe, I’m certainly all for it," Schachter said.
Schachter says he and his campaign plan on helping Noblesville parents and school safety advocates put pressure on local and state leaders to help secure schools.
“ I certainly hope that the school board and that police chief does everything that they can to make sure that that school is safe and when school starts up next year this cannot happen again," he said.