Two months after the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, students, faculty, and staff won’t return to campus when school starts on Sept. 6. On June 3, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District superintendent of schools Hal Harrell announced that the site of the massacre where 19 students and two teachers were killed will be demolished and rebuilt at a still unknown location. The decision is meant to protect the mental health of the community that is still reeling from the trauma they experienced two months ago. Robb Elementary was home to students in second through fourth grade. As they wait for the new campus to be built, the roughly 550 students and teachers who attended and worked at the school will be dispersed between three schools in the region.
“The decision to close Robb Elementary School was made in the best interest of our students, staff, and families while following the lead of other communities that have experienced mass violence tragedies,” said Anne Marie Espinoza, the executive director of communications and marketing for Uvalde CISD. “While we feel this is the right decision, we cannot speak for the entire Uvalde community about their feelings on the closure.”
During a special meeting of the Uvalde CISD board of trustees on June 3, a parent whose son had been traumatized by the massacre and would have been an incoming second grader at Robb Elementary begged the panel to relocate incoming second graders to another school. Harrell made the announcement following her plea.
“I humbly request that you consider the little ones,” the parent said. “My son is deathly afraid of Robb. What he knows right now is that when he goes to another school he’s going to get shot by a bad man.”
The schools receiving the Robb students and faculty, which include Benson Educational Complex, Flores Elementary, and a building on Oppenheimer Street, will have counselors with specialized backgrounds in trauma and grief to serve students still reeling from the tragedy. The new campuses are each about 1-2 miles away from the original campus.
According to Tami Logsdon, the program director for the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, at the request of the school district, the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas will provide free training for staff and parents to help them support their children as they transition back to the classroom. Therapy is completely voluntary, and counselors do not want any students to feel pressured into something they are not ready for. At the center outside of the school, there will also be community groups for art activities and therapy dogs in addition to one-on-one therapy sessions. This work will likely be ongoing, and any children that need additional support can be referred to their Center of Comfort and Consults in Uvalde, where they can receive grief and trauma care at no cost.
“Our work will continue to be reflective of the needs of the community and may shift and change as time goes on,” Logsdon said. “We can advise that parents and caregivers look for resources or support if they find that their children are having difficulty adapting to their new campus, or even returning to any campus at the start of the school year.”
Logsdon said she believes many students will experience an overall sense of unease and anxiety returning to school in general.
“Parents and caregivers can help prepare their children to manage their anxieties by encouraging children to talk with them about their worries and help them identify their own strategies to cope,” Logsdon said. “While we all have little control over the decisions made at higher levels, we can all work together to support one another during times of stress or discomfort. We, at the Children’s Bereavement Center, plan to be a pillar of strength for this community today and in the foreseeable future.”
In the midst of back to school preparations, Robb Elementary teachers are also calling on the public to fulfill their school supply wishlists.
“I hope that these items will help ease the difficulty of having to move campuses and help make my room feel inviting for my students,” wrote Sasha Martinez, a fourth-grade teacher.
“This year, because of the tragedy in my building, I was displaced. I at the moment, do not have my class materials, and I still do not know where my class will be at my temporary school,” wrote Monica Martinez, the STEM teacher at Robb Elementary.
It is still unknown where or when the new campus will be built and operational, but Texas grocery chain H-E-B said it will donate $10 million, and Texas contracting firm Joeris and Texas architect firm Huckabee said it will provide its services for free. The new school will also have educational, technological, and security enhancements. In addition, the Las Vegas Raiders have donated $1 million in funding to enhance safety and security infrastructure. The school district is also taking donations for the project.