A teary-eyed but composed principal Carla Bruning took to the public address system at Tampa's King High School at 7:20 a.m. Monday.
She called for a moment of silence for slain pre-International Baccalaureate student Calyx Schenecker. She announced that crisis counselors would be available all day, for students and teachers.
She told the students, "I hope you will stick together today and have a great day in the land of the Lions."
It was a tragedy that Bruning later said she did not believe at first. Then she wondered how to discuss it with her students.
Police say Calyx, 16, and her brother Beau, 13, were fatally shot Thursday. Beau was getting ready for soccer practice. Calyx was at her computer. Their mother confessed to the killings, police said.
Even students who did not know Calyx were shaken.
Akeila Dell, 16, said her mother told her the news and insisted that they watch the television report together.
Kendrick Anderson, 15, hearing it after the Gasparilla parade Saturday, wondered, "How can a mother do that to a child?"
Nicholas Berrios, 15, said, "It was very sad. A lot of parents have problems. But she didn't have to take it to that extent. She (Calyx) didn't deserve this, or her brother. They had their whole life ahead of them."
Inside the school some of Calyx's friends had dressed like characters from the Harry Potter series, one of her passions.
Bruning said she had just seen Calyx, who was also a cross country runner, the day before.
"She was a wonderful child," Bruning said. "She was probably the model child in my book. She was smart, athletic, cute. To me she was a model child."
Preparing for the difficult day ahead, Bruning and crisis counselor Bryan Noll acknowledged that the circumstances of Calyx's death were extraordinary and would elicit some difficult reactions from bereaved students.
"It will evoke thoughts of previous losses," Noll said. "And it will certainly raise questions."
Bruning and Noll said patience would be important for school officials and parents. "Ask your kids what they're thinking, and listen to them," Noll said.
Bruning said she was encouraged by the sight of the teens in their Harry Potter garb.
"These kids are wanting to celebrate Calyx's life," she said.
Meanwhile, at Liberty Middle School, children began arriving shortly before the 9 a.m. bell. Many wore blue, Beau Schenecker's favorite color.
"We love Beau!" yelled one boy, riding with a group of boys on bicycles. A woman drove by and rolled down her window, shouting, "Why take her to court? They should kill her, the mother."
Before students arrived at Liberty, a school worker in a blue polo shirt raised the flag all the way up, then lowered it to half staff.
On Friday evening, King High cross country coach Gary Bingham was reached by phone while perusing old team photos.
"Her demeanor was always to have fun, stay in the moment and enjoy yourself," Bingham said of Calyx, whom he described as one of the fastest freshmen he has ever coached.
On Friday, he described Calyx as "bubbly" and "outgoing," adding he often would catch her at practice fiddling with blades of grass or small bugs. Barrett Zebos, media center specialist at King, said Calyx was a member of the school's Reading Rocks Million Words Club — a reading comprehension program — and was set to help plan the club picnic in May.
Bingham said Calyx's mom was "around (the cross country team) some, but not near as much as her dad was."
Staff writers Dan Sullivan and Joey Knight contributed to this report.