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Aztec High School open for 'Aztec Strong' this week; students to return to class Monday
Two students from Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico, describe the chaotic scene at the school when a gunman opened fire Thursday morning, December 7, 2017. One student's cousin was killed in the shooting.Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
Monday will be an early release day at AHS; all Aztec schools let out for winter break on Wednesday
FARMINGTON — Classes will resume at Aztec High School on Monday, Dec. 18. All other schools in Aztec have normal school schedules this this week.
The high school will also be open to students and families from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday for ‘Aztec Strong’ events, according to Kirk Carpenter, superintendent of Aztec Municipal School District.
“(Aztec Strong events) are designed for students and families, who are invited to come to the school and be re-connected with teachers and staff, basically just to come up and integrate again with the school,” Carpenter said. “We want to make sure we’re supporting our students, and after this incident, they have the opportunity, with their family, to come back up and get back on campus.”
Aside from a two-hour period on Monday where students and staff could retrieve their belongings, the school has been closed to the public for a week following the fatal attack on Thursday by Aztec resident William Atchison. The district had to make repairs to the school building where the shooting took place. Administrators also wanted time to help school staff to process the shooting and to prepare them for students’ return, as well as to honor memorial services for the students who died in the shooting.
Two 17-year-old AHS students, Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco “Paco” Fernandez, were killed in the attack. A memorial for Fernandez is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday at Pinon Hills Community Church at 5101 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington, according to his obituary. A memorial for Marquez has been scheduled for this weekend, but The Daily Times could not confirm a time and place.
“Absolutely the most important thing for us is that we are supporting our students and their families and our staff in any way we can,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said there are only three school days next week, as the district lets out for winter break on Wednesday. All students will be able to return to Aztec High School on Monday, which will be an early release day.
The district has been working with the New Mexico Public Education Department in regard to the end of the semester, which is Dec. 22, when students would normally be wrapping up the fall semester’s curriculum. The district requested and received a waiver for end of course exams required by the state, according to a Facebook post from Carpenter. Students will have the opportunity to complete outstanding work and assignments to close the semester.
The three school days next week will be used as an opportunity for both instruction and support for the school community, though “taking care of our kids … is job No. 1,” Carpenter said.
“We do know how important it is to get back to what we do in education for the students’ benefit and the families and we honor how they want to get back to it,” Carpenter said, adding “Some kids are ready (to come back to school), but this is not something that everybody’s going to be on the same timeline, and we honor that. … In no way, shape or form are we forcing things. We want to be as flexible as possible, because this is unprecedented territory.”
Recovering from the tragedy will be a long-term process, Carpenter said, and the district is prepared to offer support after students and staff return from the winter break, which ends on Jan. 4.
Carpenter said he, the district and the community have been “very blessed with a plethora of resources” from within the Aztec and Four Corners communities, including other local school districts and students, and from around the state and nation.
“We not only see the support, we feel it,” Carpenter said. “It’s so very important as we continue to heal, and we just want to thank everybody, because it absolutely is helping us through this process. All of that is so greatly appreciated. The littlest things are the biggest things."
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.