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(EAST LANSING) — Five students injured during the shooting at Michigan State University remain in critical condition.
Grief counselors and a bolstered police presence will be on hand Monday at Michigan State University, as in-person classes resume eight days after a gunman came onto the East Lansing campus and fatally shot three students and injured five others, officials said Sunday.
The decision to resume classes was announced Sunday, despite many students expressing fear about returning to classes so soon after the shooting, school officials said.
“We know that everybody heals at their own pace and in their own manner. So getting it exactly right will not be possible,” Thomas Jeitschko, MSU’s interim provost said. “But we will do the best we can and support each other.”
Jeitschko acknowledged that reopening the school for in-person classes just a week after the rampage should not be construed as a “resumption of normal operations.”
He said that experts the school consulted advised that being back in spaces that are familiar and interacting with people who are familiar, “is helpful in the process of healing and grieving.”
Berkey Hall and the MSU Union building, where the shootings occurred, will remain closed for the rest of the school year, and about 300 classes will be moved to other locations on campus, officials said.
“I’d like to emphasize that coming back to a normal week this semester is not going to be normal,” Jeitschko said. “So that’s an important recognition and we’ve worked with academic leadership, we’ve worked with faculty leadership and we’ve tried to imagine and envision what will be needed and what might make this return possible and helpful.”
The shooting erupted just after 8 p.m. on Feb. 13, when the gunman entered Berkey Hall through an unlocked door and proceeded to a classroom where he opened fire, striking several victims, including two students who later died, according to police. While responding to the scene, police received reports of another shooting at the MSU Union building, located nearby.
One of the victims shot at the Union building also died, police said.
After an hourslong manhunt, police found the suspect — 43-year-old Anthony McRae — dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound off campus.
Four of the students wounded in the incident remained in critical condition Sunday, officials said.
Jeitschko said academic advisors will be available to accommodate students struggling with returning to school.
“We have advisors ready to work with them to find what is the best path and what does that entail,” Jeitschko said.
He said more than 1,000 faculty members attended a presentation Friday by two renowned experts on teaching in a trauma-informed way, especially on the first day back to class.
Alexis Travis, assistant provost and executive director for health and well-being for the university, said she anticipates many students who witnessed the shooting and the panic that ensued, may experience post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, grief and anger.
“There’s no expectations that our faculty members will be mental health practitioners in these settings. But they will be empathetic and each of them with their classes will figure out what are the best ways forward,” Jeitschko said.
Despite reassurances that the campus is safe to return, Joe Kovatch, the MSU student body president, said “frankly, students are scared.”
“Students desperately need flexibility, empathy and options coming back to campus,” said Kovatch, adding that many students are asking for online options for courses.
In addition to making mental health counselors available to students returning to campus, MSU Police and Public Safety Interim Deputy Chief Chris Rozman said a large police presence will be on campus Monday, including officers from surrounding agencies.
Rozman has not updated on the investigation of the shooting, including a motive for the rampage.
Officials said MSU will cover all funeral costs for the victims killed and pay for the medical bills of those wounded, with more than $250,000 donated to the Spartan Strong Fund, established after the shooting.
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