When life gives you bullet holes, make art.
That’s what Byrne Creek Community School did this fall.
Police soon determined the shots had been fired over the weekend, and the school had been evacuated out of “an abundance of caution,” according to superintendent Gina Niccoli-Moen.
“The kids were upset; the kids were angry; the kids were really annoyed that somebody would, for whatever reason, do that to their school,” he said, “and they wanted to send a message.”
The school district covered a shot-up window at the main entrance to the school with a sheet of plywood for a couple days.
Once the window was replaced, the school kept the piece of plywood and transformed it into a symbol of community spirit.
Two photography students, Maya Arradaza (Grade 11) and Lily Whitford (Grade 12), went around the school and took photos of students and staff members smiling and arranged their smiles in a black and white collage on the plywood sheet.
Byrne Creek photography teacher Laura Mathers said she borrowed the idea from Stride Avenue Community School kindergarten teacher Susan Orologio, who has a collage of photos of her students’ smiles on her classroom door.
“The bullet hole felt ugly and negative,” Mathers said, “so I thought it was important to replace that with something that brightened people’s day.”
To Whitford, the smiles are a much better reflection of the school’s community than the bullet holes.
“I love this school,” she said, “and I think what happened does not define our school in any way. … This is a really welcoming and warm place.”
“I think it turned out really well. It’s quite striking and the message is good,” she said. “We wanted to show community and support in a negative time.”
Police are looking into the shooting, according to Starr.
“We don’t have any reason to believe it has anything to do with us at all,” he said.