NEW HANOVER COUNTY — New Hanover County Schools announced at a press conference that it will not resume classes at New Hanover High on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Instead, it will act as a teacher workday, with staff required to be on campus.
The move comes in response to an active shooter that opened fire on school grounds Monday morning. A fight broke out among a group of students as classes were changing in the crowded catwalk at New Hanover High School right after 11 a.m. It ended with gunshots; one student was injured and transported to the hospital, where they are reportedly expected to recover.
The district attorney announced around 3 p.m. a 15-year-old was charged with carrying and discharging a weapon on school grounds, attempted first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury.
New Hanover High School principal Philip Sutton confirmed students were evacuated from New Hanover High School to Williston Middle School. Before the shooter had been detained, they walked eight blocks — or 0.7 miles — from the high school campus to the middle school, escorted by authorities on the scene.
Upon arrival students were dispersed throughout the gym, cafeteria and auditorium at Williston. Authorities asked families go to the Martin Luther King Center nearby to pick up their children.
“There were no bag checks or interrogations,” confirmed Julie Varnam, assistant superintendent, who responded to rumors that students were required to oblige to a search.
At the district press conference, school officials said protocols are in place on how to respond to school shootings. Though the reality of living through it is vastly different, superintendent Dr. Charles Foust said: “You can never be 100 percent prepared.”
“For every response, we always will say, ‘Well, did you do this?’ or ‘Did you do that?'” he added. “So we’ll never be able to articulate and clean up a response that everyone wants us to have.”
He also announced in the coming days and weeks, an audit will take place on the shooting and response to it. The audit will look at the handling of the situation “from every angle possible,” Foust said.
Foust acknowledged New Hanover High staff acted fast, as did agencies and county officials, including the Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. He said law enforcement was able to secure the school grounds and evacuated students expediently.
“Nothing matters to us more than student safety,” Foust said. “Nothing. If we don’t get that right, then everything else we’re working toward as educators will fall short.”
Tuesday, administration will be meeting with staff about proper resources to offer students and families; Sutton said a crisis team will be available starting at 9 a.m. if students want to come by to speak with someone.
A crisis help line is open, too, to students, parents, and staff at (910) 798-6501. The line will remain open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in English and Spanish.
“Any time in our safety precautions, we want to make sure that we are looking at any potential risks and providing for a response to that in a socially and emotionally protective way,” Varnam added. “So we’ve got some work to do on that and we’re going to be working with our law enforcement partners for next steps.”
There also will be extra safety measures in place upon the students’ return Wednesday, officials said.
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