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Balancing academics and trauma as students prepare to return to Austin-East High School

Austin-East will return to virtual learning on Tuesday, then be back in person at the high school on Wednesday with promises of increased safety measures.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Austin-East High School students were out of school Thursday, but many families are worried about students returning to the school after last Monday's deadly shooting.

They are set to return to virtual learning on Tuesday, then in-person classes at Austin-East High School on Wednesday.

It comes as the community awaits answers in a student's death and an officer's injury.

Anthony Thompson Jr. was 17 and in the 11th grade. Investigators said there was a struggle between Thompson and officers in a school bathroom. They said the shot that hurt an officer was not fired from the student's gun.

Officials are holding onto evidence as they investigate.

Some students said they don't feel safe going to school after what happened. Experts said kids can experience trauma just from hearing about an event that happened at a place where they usually feel safe, even if they weren't there.

RELATED: Mental health professional urges community to check in on one another after Austin East shooting

Now, students are expected to handle that trauma and continue on with lessons at the same time.

"It's going to be really normal for kids to need more help with their mental health right now," said Sarah Long, Assistant Director for Family Treatment Services at the McNabb Center.

Officials said that additional counselors will be at the school, and Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said they will keep extra resources there as long as needed.

Thomas said the district is also making changes so students feel safe at Austin-East High School, though he didn't go into detail of what those entailed.

"Our maintenance and IT folks are working really really hard to get that done over the next few days," said Thomas.

He also mentioned 'additional personnel' and the ability to do random searches, adding they had considered letting the school learn virtually for the rest of the year but decided against it.

"I think it's important for students to get back and to help with the healing process," said Thomas.

That healing process will look different for everyone, officials said.

"So, there are going to be kids that really need a lot more support. They're going to need to really have a lot more help with their mental health," said Long. "And some kids might be, you know, ready to jump back into academics sooner."

Long said it's normal for kids to struggle with academics after a traumatic event.

"Trauma causes us to feel really stressed out. And when we're stressed out, it is hard to think about anything but what is making us feel stressed," she said.

The McNabb Center has counselors at every Knox County middle and high school.

The designated counselor at Austin-East High School has been there since the start of the school year, and will continue to be a resource for students.

RELATED: Here's why we won't see body camera footage of Austin-East shooting right away

But there are small things students can do themselves to feel more calm.

"Walking, taking deep breaths, yoga," said Long. "It can be really helpful for kids to have a safe, trusted grown-up to talk to. And then it's also sometimes important when kids have experienced trauma to reach out for professional help."

If that trusted grown up is you, then you should listen and respond with empathy. if a student comes to you.

And if you're seeking professional help, the McNabb center can connect you with trained professionals in several fields of mental health care.

You can call the center at 1-800-255-9711.