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Cold Spring students back to class for first time after shooting
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Students pause at a giant card for the student injured in the shooting, and a memorial for the one killed. (MPR Photo/Jeff Horwich)
Classes resumed at Rocori High School in Cold Spring on Friday, two days after the fatal school shooting. Students say it was hardly a typical day of school; the halls were relatively quiet, and teachers put their normal lesson plans aside. The goal for the day was mostly to make sure students kept their hands and minds occupied, and that they had someone to talk to if they needed it.

Cold Spring, Minn. — Local community members waited outside Rocori High School in the morning to welcome students and offer their support. Throughout the day, students walked to the front doors where there's a memorial set up for Aaron Rollins, who was killed, and Seth Bartell, who remains in critical condition. Notes in magic marker cover signs for each boy, and balloons flapped in the wind and rain.

"That's all you hear in the hallways is about this stuff, Seth and Aaron. I knew both of them," said sophomore Kari Schneider. She and her friend say it feels a little soon to return to school. The girls talked with the volunteer counselors who are on-call in the building.

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Image A tribute to victims

"We have no doubt that it was a good decision to bring students back," said Scott Staska, the superintendent of the Rocori School District. "It was tough; there was no doubt about that. It was extremely tough to come back, but the opportunity to be together as a group, the opportunity to see their friends, to talk to people, to share their experiences, to share their emotions and reactions, to see the professionals in the building....was very cleansing, very helpful."

It helps that this was not a day for homework and quizzes. Students and teachers found their own ways to make a day at school compatible with the mourning going on here.

"The mental health people said yesterday that it's just a great idea if they wanted to draw, write, make cards, doodle, and I thought -- actually I woke up about three this morning and laid there a while and about 3:30 -- I thought, hey, I teach this stuff, we can do this. Just bring it onto the Web," said Paul Court, a math teacher who also teaches kids how to design Web pages.

Court was at the school by 5 a.m., setting up a place on the high school's Web site where students could make tribute pages of their own.

"And then you just click on Online tributes to Aaron and Seth. I put up one of my own, just this "Rocori Heals." Just the thoughts that went through my head at 5:30 this morning."

At the other end of the school, Anita Hendrickx's art room is packed with students. Most are technically supposed to be in another class. They're making tissue flowers in Rocori school colors of silver and red. And lapel ribbons labeled with the names of Aaron and Seth.

Hendrickx: Very therapeutic. We've had a number of students that have come in that have been extremely upset, and they've ocme in and the semblance of some smile has been on their face whe they leave. So they've been comforted by being in the room, being with their friends.

Hendrickx says the students are not the only ones benefitting. "I'm glad I'm here, because if I were at home I would be a puddle. So being around the students has been my therapy. It's been good for all fo us. I think for hte insturctors that are in here, it's been really good for us."

"People ask for them," says freshman Ashley Wehri. "I've been down here every class period and I give them out when I get back to my class."

Wehri says her teachers are either discussing the tragedy head-on, or avoiding it altogether. "We haven't really done anything in any of the classes except talk about it, and watch movies and stuff to try to get our minds off of it. Our teachers have pretty much talked but none of the kids have really said anything. Kind of just don't really want to talk about it yet. It'll take awhile."

Teachers and administrators know it might take awhile. They say at this point it's probably best for everyone if school doesn't get back to normal for quite some time.

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