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Staff return to Florida high school for first time since shooting

Teachers were welcomed back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as part of what the school district called an ‘emotional and difficult recovery process’.

FILE: Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police checkpoint near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman on 15 February 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Picture: AFP.

PARKLAND - Staff members returned for the first time on Friday to the Florida high school where 17 students and faculty were gunned down last week in one of the deadliest school attacks in US history, inflaming the national debate about gun rights.

Teachers were welcomed back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland as part of what the school district called an “emotional and difficult recovery process.”

Staff could be seen arriving at the school in their cars on Friday, passing perimeter checks guarded by police cars, according to video from Miami’s 7News.

Classes are due to resume on Wednesday. On Sunday, students and their parents are invited to come to the campus for “support services,” the Broward County Public Schools district said in a statement.

Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the school, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Authorities have said that Cruz, who was expelled from Stoneman Douglas High last year for unspecified disciplinary problems, used a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle in the attack.

Many of the student survivors of the massacre have since advocated for tougher gun-control laws. They have been widely interviewed on national television and have travelled to meet politicians in Tallahassee, the state capital, and US President Donald Trump in the White House.

WATCH: School shooting survivor: ‘Why are we the ones marching?’

In remarks to reporters on Friday, Trump criticized the armed sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school. The deputy, Scot Peterson, resigned after an internal investigation found he failed to go inside and confront the shooter, the Broward County sheriff said on Thursday.

“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened,” Trump said. “But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that.”

Trump said Peterson may have been “a coward.”

The president has also said he wants stronger background checks to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns and that he wants more school staff to be armed, suggesting that teachers with special training could carry concealed weapons.

“Our schools are essentially gun-free zones and that makes them very dangerous places,” Trump said on Friday.