CHCCS Students Deserved a More Memorable First Day Of School!

The first day of school for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district was August, and it was just the sixth day of sessions for UNC students.

It was the first time many kindergarten pupils had ever stepped into a classroom. It was also the second week of classes for first-year students, many of whom had just recently moved away from their homes.

These kids were just getting used to walking to class, making friends, and establishing their own campus community. The shooting at 1:04 p.m. disrupted their routine, as students huddled in dorm rooms, classrooms, and libraries while texting their families, friends, and new classmates that they were fine.

This set the tone for many first-year students, who may be on high alert throughout their day-to-day lives on campus. I didn’t contemplate the impact on nearby public schools until I was far into the campus lockdown.

CHCCS Students Deserved a More Memorable First Day Of School

Earlier that morning, kindergarten pupils aged five and six were meeting their instructors and classmates and settling into their seats, excited for their first day of the school year.

Parents were eager for their children to begin school, believing that their children would be safe. I work as a swim instructor for UNC Aquatics, and several of my students attend CHCCS. I had a few parents contact me and ask whether I was okay, where I was, and what I knew.

I couldn’t provide them any answers or reassurance. I was relying on rumors, which stated that there were differing numbers of people with firearms in various places of prospective suspects. All these parents could do was watch the news and wait, just like the rest of us.

CHCCS classrooms went into “Secure Mode,” with all entrances blocked and locked, preventing anyone from entering the facility until the all-clear was given. Students waited in their classrooms for over four hours while police stormed UNC’s campus in search of a suspect.

Students typically exit the classroom at 2:35 p.m. It wasn’t until 3:40 p.m. on that Monday, following a delayed dismissal process for elementary and middle school pupils that left parents anxious and bewildered as they waited in huge lines.

CHCCS Students Deserved a More Memorable First Day Of School

Because instruction was allowed to proceed as usual during “Secure Mode,” it’s difficult to say what students were told while they waited.

Some teachers may have felt compelled to inform older elementary and middle school students about what was going on on campus. It appears difficult to know how to approach this conversation.

In these very real and frightening situations, how should teachers communicate with their students? Is there ever a suitable way to approach these issues, no matter how cautious we are?

Others, meanwhile, elected not to inform the children in order to retain their sense of safety at school. Parents had to decide whether to explain what had happened over dinner or to wait and see whether their child inquired about the lockdown.

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Many current college students have experienced lockdowns. Now, new groups of students must cope with the same protocols and worries that we encountered at the outset of our studies.

These kindergarten practices will not change because the gun policy will not change. Because Republicans control the North Carolina House and Senate, gun restrictions are unlikely to alter in the foreseeable future.

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