DES MOINES, Iowa — Nine months have passed since an East High School student was shot and killed just outside of the school. Des Moines Public Schools has spent that time trying to make the campus more safe, and it shared the progress it has made on Wednesday.
Interim Superintendent Matt Smith addressed participants of a community conversation inside of East High’s cafeteria. He said the district has added cameras outside of the school for security and invested in therapists to make sure students are doing OK mentally.
“We are there for one another in the good times and we are there for one another in the bad times,” Smith said. “We show up with open arms, open hearts, and open minds.”
Wednesday’s event was the sequel to a conversation the school district organized shortly after 15-year-old Jose Lopez’s death. Smith said the concerns discussed at the first meeting directly led to all of the changes instituted by the district.
“We’ve got amazing school leaders, staff, and students that are coming together to have conversations on a regular basis about what works, what doesn’t work, and what we need to do to move forward,” Smith said. “This is the precipice around a cultural change about how we come together in good times and bad.”
Smith said DMPS hopes to continue these conversations indefinitely so the East High community can properly process its trauma.
“It is hard. It takes vulnerability from everybody for everyone to say, ‘I’m hurting, this is why I’m hurting, and I’d like to heal together,'” Smith said. “It takes quite a bit of vulnerability and quite a bit of courage for folks to continue to show up and have these conversations.”