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Saskatchewan school feels abandoned after deadly shooting last year: principal

Click to play video: 'La Loche, Sask. still struggling according to community leaders'
La Loche, Sask. still struggling according to community leaders
WATCH ABOVE: Community leaders in La Lochee gave an updateRonday on how the community is coping leading up to the one-year anniversary of a tragic school shooting. Joel Senick reports – Jan 10, 2017

The principal of a remote northern Saskatchewan school hit by a deadly shooting almost a year ago says staff and students feel like they’ve been abandoned.

Greg Hatch says there was some help for about a month after a gunman at the La Loche high school killed teacher Adam Wood and teacher’s aide Marie Janvier last Jan. 22. Seven others were wounded.

READ MORE: Teen pleads guilty in northern Saskatchewan school shooting

After that, the school was left on its own to make it through the year, Hatch says.

The building’s main doors had been blasted with holes and were still boarded up when students started school in September. A partition around the office was up until December, he noted.

“Things were the same when as we left in June, so that was frustration, anger, (for) students (and) staff. For the most part, we feel that we’ve been left alone and we’ve been abandoned,” Hatch said Monday as community leaders talked about the recovery effort.

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“It’s not a statement of disrespect. It’s just an honest answer (to) where are we at. We were traumatized. We still haven’t dealt with the trauma.”

Hatch said students are struggling in school and staff are struggling with their work.

“Each and every day that a student gets out of bed and comes to school and walks through those doors … it’s a good day for them,”
said Hatch, who was in the building when the shooting occurred.

“We’re just trying to make it through each and every day.”

READ MORE: La Loche, Sask. shooting survivor calls on province to provide more support

La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said there’s a long recovery road ahead for the entire community, despite some help for housing and other initiatives.

A private day of observance is planned on the anniversary date, he said.

“January 22 was a day that brought us to our knees, but we came together. We supported each other, loved each other and showed the world the true meaning of community and resiliency.”

The shooter also killed two brothers: Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, before he went to the school. The boys are buried side by side under a low, sloping V-shaped structure. Inside, on top of their graves, are fresh flowers and a homemade sign that reads “Rest Easy.” Wooden signs with cartoon reindeer wish each boy a Merry Christmas.

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A few rows down lies Janvier. Her smiling face is etched into the black headstone. Carved into the marker are the words: “My sweet precious loving daughter.”

The La Loche graveyard was empty Monday as snowflakes swirled down. There was no sound save for the distant barking of dogs that roam the streets.

In front of the school is a permanent memorial full of flowers, a cross and candles just visible in piles of snow.

The wounds from the shooting run deep.

FULL COVERAGE: La Loche school shooting

New Democrat MP Georgina Jolibois, who represents the area, has said people in La Loche are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Substitute teacher Charlene Klyne lost all sight in her left eye and can only see shadows with the other. She needed surgeries to remove pellets lodged in her upper body.

Klyne said last fall that the victims were promised help, but little had been given and it was “like being victimized every day over and over again.”

A teenager, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty in October to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.

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No agreed facts about what happened or why were submitted to the court.

At the time of the shooting, the teen’s friends described him as the black sheep of his family and a victim of bullying. One person said the teen was often teased about his large ears.

A sentencing hearing for the teen is set for May in La Loche. The Crown has said it will argue to have him sentenced as an adult.

Klyne has said the shooter’s age -he turned 18 shortly after the shooting -and the magnitude of the crime are reasons for an adult sentence.

“I hope he never gets out.”

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