Madelyne Keneborus, right, a Lewiston High School senior, and other students spend time Tuesday morning with Trixie, a therapy dog from Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, in the multipurpose room at the school. “I think it’s amazing how dogs can sense human emotion and able to bring comfort and calm to humans,” she said. “This tragedy really hit close to home but we have a strong community helping each other get through this.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Students were hugging and laughing as they greeted each other Tuesday morning at Lewiston High School, nearly a week after mass shootings at two local businesses.

Principal Jonathan Radtke said many students enjoyed having the structure and predictability of school back in their lives after classes were canceled Thursday and Friday while police hunted for the suspect, and Monday for staff and teachers to seek counseling and learn how to help students transition back into school.

Many parents reported that some of their children experienced a lot of anxiety and fear during that time.

“We will keep our eyes open for the long haul but I think today was a good step in making life feel a little bit more normal for folks,” Radtke said.

There were counselors on hand at all district schools to support staff and teachers, including on the first and second floors of the high school for students, Radtke said.

He spent most of Monday preparing teachers and organizing events to support returning students.


Lewiston High School students sign their names and write messages Tuesday on a giant Lewiston Strong poster in the school’s multipurpose room. Students spent time with therapy dogs earlier to help cope with last week’s mass shootings in the city. From left are Ismahan Ali, Angelina Almeida, Qamar Ali and Estefania Codo. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Jaye Rich, Lewiston Education Association president and Thomas J McMahon Elementary School prekindergarten and kindergarten multilingual teacher, said most children seemed to be in school Tuesday and the feeling was mostly positive.

Younger students seemed to just be happy to be back in school, while older children asked more questions and acted more apprehensively, she said. Some students asked if there could be another shooting and wondered if they were safe, so teachers spent the day reassuring them that all adults in every school were working to keep students safe.

Though many students seemed OK, it does not mean they will not show signs of trauma in the days and weeks ahead, Rich said.

It is a sentiment echoed by Radtke. Students will process the trauma differently and staff will likely be looking for trauma signs for the remaining school year, he said.

Many teachers felt relief and were just happy to be together Monday, Rich said. It was a much needed day of learning and decompressing for them before students returned to their classrooms, she said. They talked and shared their stories, bringing a sense of community to schools.

Teachers were also coached in how to talk to children without retraumatizing them, she said. “That was really helpful because we … didn’t feel blind going into today.”


Though Rich had initially expected to have more hard conversations with students, she was glad students were happy to be back in school and having positive interactions, she said.

There were no major incidences in city schools Tuesday, according to Superintendent Jake Langlais. The Lewiston Police Department agreed to patrol around the schools more Tuesday at the request made by some School Committee members during an emergency meeting Sunday.

Moving forward, Langlais said he will take things day by day, essentially taking a “pulse” of the situation in schools and consider what actions are warranted from there.

Teachers want parents to know that their children are loved, Rich said, are supported and listened to while they are in school. Every adult in every school is doing what they can to keep kids safe in an “all hands on deck” effort, she said.

She said she understands that some of the reopening plans place a burden on families, particularly the early-release days, but teachers are asking that parents be patient with them.

“Teachers just ask for understanding and you know compassion from families and from communities knowing that we have a big load to carry,” Rich said. “We do so willingly and you know lovingly but just we need the support from home, too. And you know also we’re here for families. We know that families have you know experienced trauma too.”

Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Response worker Kiane Morse, back, watches Tuesday as Lewiston High School students pet her dog Trixie at the school. Trixie and other therapy dogs will be in local schools through the week to help students and staff cope with the trauma from the two mass shootings at two businesses in the city last week. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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