'We stand with Uvalde'

Tuesday, Sept. 6 was a very big day for the South Texas community of Uvalde, where students returned to school following the tragic events of May 24. In a show of solidarity, students, staff and faculty across East Texas, and much of the state, wore Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s color of maroon to support the community.

Grapeland Independent School District Superintendent Don Jackson summed up how the community of Uvalde is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.

“In our lives sometimes we endure things that happened that are forever etched in our minds, Uvalde ISD and Robb Elementary will never be forgotten,” he said. “Those students and teachers are on the hearts and minds of a multitude of people each and every day. We are praying for the families directly affected and for every soul that enters the door of any school, anywhere.”

Although school started weeks ago in many parts of Texas, officials pushed back the first day of class in Uvalde after a summer of unfathomable heartache, anger, and revelations of widespread failures by law enforcement who allowed an 18-year-old gunman to open fire inside the adjoining classrooms for more than 70 minutes.

Students began arriving before dawn Tuesday at Uvalde Elementary, walking through newly installed 8-foot metal fencing that surrounds the campus and past a state trooper standing guard outside an entrance. Colorful flags hung inside the hallways and teachers wore turquoise shirts that read "Together We Rise & Together We Are Better" on the back. State troopers were parked on every corner outside the school.

Elkhart Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Lamont Smith recognizes the difference between his students returning to school and Uvalde’s.

“In Elkhart ISD, we approached the first day of school with excitement,” he said. “We were ready to see friends, co-workers and students. We were looking forward to reconnecting with our community and at the same time we were reviewing safety protocols. Our team of educators realize Uvalde is starting school with a very different reality. Wearing maroon today was just another way for us to say we care.”

Slocum Independent School District Superintendent Cliff Lasiter echoed Smith’s sentiment.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, the students, the teachers and the entire Uvalde community,” he said. “I cannot imagine how tough this day has to be for the entire Uvalde ISD family.”

The events that took place in Uvalde have impacted every school district in Texas. Districts spent the summer evaluating and re-evaluating safety protocols, updating facilities and training for various scenarios in order to keep students safe.

“We continue to have conversations and take actions to maintain the safety of our students and staff,” Smith said. “This tragedy has brought scrutiny to school safety programs across the nation with the hope of eliminating violent acts in schools. I challenge Anderson County citizens to report suspicious behaviors to campus and district administrators. Each campus and district has safety as a top priority.”

The return to classrooms today was surely an emotional time for the community of Uvalde. The support coming in from all over Texas speaks volumes about the people of this great state.

Some information included in this article was taken from an Associated Press story by Paul J. Weber.