Chardon Principal Reflects on Past Year, Looks Forward

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CHARDON, Ohio -- It was a busy summer for Chardon High School principal Andy Fetchik.

"It was a healing summer. We focused on mental health counselors, how are we going to welcome the kids back. We talked about how are we going to make the school more welcoming," said Fetchik.

Students go back to school Thursday morning. Back to a school that still looks the same, but has changed internally.

"We have a group called Beech Brook, out of Cuyahoga County. And they have counselors on hand that will be available all day during the school day. They have an office in the back," said Fetchik.

For a school that has been shook to the core.

"I'd like the kids to know it's okay the way they are feeling. That when they come in and they are nervous and apprehensive, there are 65 teachers and assistant principals and a principal that feel the same way," added Fetchik.

Back in February, a gunman opened fire inside the cafeteria, killing three classmates, Danny Parmertor, Demetrius Hewlin, and Russell King Jr. Two other students were wounded.

"What we've been able to do over the summer is remove the lockers and give them back to the families so that they have them. We purchased new lockers, but they certainly won't be used in the future. And they've been decorated with a sign, letting the students know that the locker was donated and we can still continue to send letters and cards to the families," said Fetchik.

As for the thousands of cards and letters that once covered the school's 'Hallways in Hope'.

"Everything is put away with the help of the Western Reserve Historical Society, who had recommended acid free boxes and how to remove things without damaging them. And everything is stored on campus," said Fetchik.

There are special moments planned at the Chardon High School Football team's home opener Friday night. The football team will wear red ribbons on their helmets. Before the game, they will honor the three with a moment in the locker room.

"They are going to take some alone time in the lockerroom to remember that moment before they come down to the field," said Fetchik.

A team no doubt cheered on by the Chardon community, as the Hilltoppers take on long-time rival, West Geauga.

"West Geauga were a big help after the 27th. They did a lot of things to support our kids and our community. There will be some mixed emotions but certainly when the first snap is taken, those feelings will be left behind," said Fetchik.

One town. One heart. That continues to beat.

"Friday nights are about high school football in northeast Ohio. And getting chance to play the game, cheer on their team, I really will be happy for our kids again," said Fetchik.