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Red Lake shootings
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Red Lake students return to school for cleansing ceremony
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Sophomore Misty Roy said it felt "weird" to be back inside Red Lake High School, three weeks after the deadly school shooting. (MPR Photo/Bob Reha)
Students returned to Red Lake High School Monday. It was the first time they'd been back since one of their classmates killed five fellow students, a teacher, a security guard and himself three weeks ago. Jeff Wiese also killed two other people, including his grandfather. Monday was a day designed to cleanse the school building and its environment -- a way to prepare the students and teachers for what's to come When classes resume Tuesday.

Red Lake, Minn. — The healing ceremony was held outside the school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation before students and parents entered. The ceremony was private, not something meant for translation.

Inside, students were allowed to clear out their lockers. Most are in the newer section of the school where the shootings took place.

When students return for class Tuesday, they'll be in an older part of the building that was scheduled for demolition. The newer sections of the building, where people died, will be closed for extensive renovations.

While the students, teachers and parents arrived at the school, and throughout the day, reporters were kept out of sight and not allowed inside the school.

Principal Chris Dunshee says Ryan Auguinash and Cody Thunder, two students wounded in the shooting, led several hundred people into the school gym for the ceremony.

Dunshee says slowly, the community is recovering.

"We're going to take this one step at a time, and we're going to be listening to our kids and trying to meet their needs -- so we'll take it very slowly," Dunshee says.

Dunshee says more than 80 students attended the ceremony.

"I just felt weird walking in there," said Misty Roy, a sophomore at the school.

In the adjacent middle school, an open house was held for students and their parents. Across town, classes resumed at the elementary school. Sixth grader Anita Scott says she was glad to go back to school.

"I miss going to school because all of my friends are there, and I haven't seen them because they live out west" and in other neighborhoods, said Scott.

Security remains the top worry for parents. Anita's mother Michelle Johnson believes it's good that the kids are going back to school, and she thinks they'll be safe there. Johnson says she's been reassured after talking with faculty and staff.

"They said if my children need counseling they are there, and they will help out and stuff like that, so not to let my kids be scared of going back to school," said Johnson. "They're letting us know that it's all right, and let our children know it's all right, it's safe."

Students will return to the Red Lake High School Tuesday for a half day of classes. School officials will meet Friday to decide if half days will continue or if the policy will change.