“Inhale the future. Exhale the past.”

“You are loved!”

In the common area of Sandcreek Middle School, a dozen students on Monday afternoon worked to create small signs and large banners. The signs were taken up to Rigby later that day and set up outside of Rigby Middle School, part of the outpouring of support from eastern Idaho that has followed Thursday’s shooting at the school.

Sandcreek eighth-grader Oaklee Giles came up with the idea to make posters supporting the school. Giles has relatives who live in Rigby and knows some Rigby Middle School students.

“You hear on the news about shootings. It’s always scary, but when it happens closer to you, you cannot just move on from it,” Giles said.

Two students and a school custodian were injured in the shooting Thursday morning but are expected to fully recover. The shooter, a sixth-grade girl whose name has not been released by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, remains in county custody as the investigation continues. Jefferson School District canceled all classes until Tuesday, so families could spend time together and teachers could prepare to help students once they returned to class.

Like Giles, many families in Idaho Falls have some connection to the Rigby community. The track team from Rocky Mountain Middle School had been in Rigby on Wednesday for a meet. Eighth-grader Katelyn Cook was friends with some of the Rigby students she raced against that day.

Cook was “really shaken” when she heard the news about Rigby from a teacher on Thursday. When Sandcreek put out a message on Facebook about the poster-making event, she sent a message to her eighth-grade friends in a group chat and they agreed to come help out.

“It’s just to show we care,” Cook said, “and it maybe makes more of a push for mental health care in schools.”

Sandcreek Principal Yvonne Thurber had been a principal at elementary and high schools in Rigby for years before she joined Bonneville Joint School District 93. Thurber said she was encouraged by the show of support from her students for everyone affected by the shooting in Rigby — including the suspected shooter.

“This is not about villainizing anybody. It’s all about showing compassion and support for everyone involved,” Thurber said.

Idaho Falls School District 91 sent counselors to Rigby on Friday to help work with students immediately after the shooting. Verified GoFundMe accounts, made on behalf of all three victims of the shooting last week, collectively raised tens of thousands of dollars.

Physical donations to help the community were routed through the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center, which planned a community meeting for 6 p.m. Monday to discuss how to help Rigby move forward.

The effort to support Rigby Middle School happened to coincide with the Mental Health Awareness Week beginning Tuesday at Sandcreek. So as Sandcreek students worked on posters that Thurber would be dropping off outside the school, Sandcreek’s teachers and school counselors were preparing banners and decorations for their own school.

This will be the school’s second weeklong push this spring to support students’ mental and emotional health. In late February, the school took part in the Random Acts of Kindness effort organized by Hillcrest High School to promote suicide awareness and prevention.

Sandcreek counselor Cheryl Anderson said that Mental Health Awareness Week was a broader effort to continue destigmatizing mental health issues. Andersen said the district has been on higher alert for student mental health issues all school year, given the unknowns of how COVID-19 changes and restrictions would impact students.

“We’ve really taken a different approach this year, to have that in the forefront of discussions and recognize that our kids can be struggling silently,” Andersen said.

In February, District 93 tapped Discovery Elementary School Principal Ken Marlowe to lead a concerted effort over the next few years to address the social-emotional learning of students.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.

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