NORTH POLE - Middle School Principal Ernie Manzie is looking forward to Monday night.
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Students will gather for Eighth Grade Celebration, a ceremony honoring outstanding students followed by a dance. It's not a prom, Manzies says, but eighth-graders dressed in adolescent finery to take part in one of their last school activities before high school.
Two weeks after North Pole police arrested six students on charges of conspiring to harm classmates or teachers, middle school officials are working hard to return routine and normalcy to the school and its 500 students.
The six seventh-graders, all in the 13-year-old range, are suspected of scheming to take guns and knives to the middle school and kill students they felt picked on them and teachers they didn't like. Police say the boys planned to knock out the school's power and telephone systems, giving them time for the slayings, then escape from the town of 1,600 about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks. They were arrested April 22.
Nine other students stand accused of knowing about the plot and not revealing it. The nine are "going through the disciplinary process," Manzie said, which means they remain suspended.
North Pole Police Chief Paul Lindhag said Monday he could not release any new information about the case for several reasons.
The ages of the six boys arrested precludes release of details, and the investigation has not yet been completed, he said. Alaska State Troopers are assisting the investigation.
The district attorney will decide on charges and which jurisdiction - whether juvenile or adult court - they should be filed.
Those decisions will be made after the investigation is completed, Lindhag said.
Manzie said the arrests seized the attention of everyone connected to the school, and frightened parents and students.
"It was a stressful situation for everyone," he said.
Parents pulled about a dozen students out of school.
"I certainly understood that," Manzies said.
The school provided lessons the students could do at home, and some have returned.
"Some have chosen not to for the rest of the year," he said.
There is not been time to conclude why students would plot violence, he said.
"I've replayed things a lot in my mind," he said, and he expects to reflect more once the school year ends.
He's confident the school is now safe.
"Every threat is taken seriously," Manzie said, but he acknowledges wrestling with the idea that 13-year-old boys would carry out a deadly scheme.
"It's hard to imagine," he said.
The main thing, he said, is that they didn't succeed. A parent called police and officers quickly intervened, he said.
The school is getting back to normal. Teachers are stressing academics, and the last two weeks have been uneventful.
"There are so many fine teachers here, and great students," he said. "It's tough because I want to have the kids feel good about being here."