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'We're in listening mode,' Lewiston superintendent says as students return to school

A man walks past a make-shift memorial at the base of the Lewiston sign at Veteran's Memorial Park, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. The community is working to heal following shooting deaths of 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
Matt York
/
AP
A man walks past a make-shift memorial at the base of the Lewiston sign at Veteran's Memorial Park, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. The community is working to heal following shooting deaths of 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

Lewiston school officials have urged students against wearing Halloween costumes or bringing props on their first day back to the classroom.

Superintendent Jake Langlais said he doesn't want the costumes to trigger anyone, as the school community is just beginning to grieve over the mass shootings that killed 18 people and injured 13 others last week.

During a meeting with parents and community members Monday night, Langlais urged families to talk to their children about how they're feeling.

"It's a bit of challenge. I tried to do this with my own family," he said. "I defined my own emotions as processing. I'm pretty sure, and I'm not saying this to be too funny, but I'm pretty sure that processing is not an emotion. But that's what I felt in the moment, and what I felt in my own home was that I think my kids appreciated that we were just having that conversation."

Staff came back to school Monday to prepare for the return of more than 5,000 to Lewiston classrooms Tuesday. Langlais said local staff from the National Alliance on Mental Illness have spoken to school personnel about what to expect.

"I think we're really in a listening mode," he told parents and community members Monday evening. "We'll be inviting students to have conversations. I don't think it's the intention to say this happened with specific levels of detail."

Students will be released early on Wednesday and Friday later this week. There will be no pre-K on those days. Students will also be released early for each of the next two Wednesdays.

The goal, Langlais said, is to "pace ourselves," and slowly reintroduce reintroduce academic work and familiar routines.

"Being mindful will get us through. I think if we're intentional and we reflect and we make sure that we're taking care of one another, we'll be just fine," he added.

Langlais says law enforcement and school resource officers will also increase their patrols.