At least a dozen of those killed in Sunday’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs were children, and some of them attended the school districts surrounding the small town.
Officials from local districts made the decision to go forward with classes on the Monday after the shooting, far from certain as to how many empty seats there might be in some classrooms, or how students might be affected by the trauma the whole area is experiencing.
For Jose Moreno, the superintendent of the La Vernia Independent School District – about 10 miles up the road from Sutherland Springs – it was a harrowing day. He visited the schools to get a firsthand sense of what the students and the teachers were dealing with.
“The greatest thing I’m seeing is that there is a lot of unity, a lot of coming together, and that’s what we want to see in times like this,” Moreno says.
All La Vernia ISD schools are making counselors available to students.
“Every campus has a location, as well as personnel, to be able to support everyone that needs that little extra support right now,” he says.
These counselors are also available to parents and other community members, Moreno says.
“This is about a community. And when we look at our community, we look at our community as not just as our students. We look at our parents. We look at community members. Anyone who needs that time to come and talk to someone. That’s critical. That’s how we heal, is to be able to talk through things,” Moreno says.
Moreno says he decided to go forward with classes in order to try to create stability for the children of Sutherland Springs and surrounding communities.
“And more than anything, I think kids just need kids,” Moreno says. “So when they’re able to gravitate toward one another, you see the bonding that I’ve seen today just with our students, all the way from the primary to the high school level. It’s just incredible that they themselves support one another.”
It’s not just the students who are coming together to support each other. Moreno says school districts in the San Antonio area have reached out to offer counselors and other resources to La Vernia.
“I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve had from outside agencies,” Moreno says. “Everyone works together in crisis situations, and that’s what school’s about.”
Written by Kate G.