MARYSVILLE — Ground was broken on a new cafeteria at Marysville Pilchuck High School on Friday.
The event was mostly symbolic, with speeches and the ceremonial spadeful of earth. Staff, visitors and a handful students hanging around after school kept the event short.
It has been a year and a half since a student at the school shot five of his friends, four of them fatally, before taking his own life.
The sole survivor, Nate Hatch, hasn’t returned to the school. He can’t, said his grandfather on Friday.
“He’s really struggling a year and a half later,” Don Hatch said.
Nate has been studying at home and only occasionally has set foot on campus for a football game. He never stays long, the older Hatch said.
“I had to come. This here is a little bit of medicine,” Don Hatch said, which he hopes will allow his family and community to continue healing.
A doctor recently cleared Nate to play sports again, and he’s eager to return to wrestling, Hatch said. But Nate still has nightmares and misses his friends who died in the shooting. His struggles are felt by all his family.
“There’s no remedy to turn to and say, ‘I can give them advice,’” Hatch said. “Nobody has done this.”
The healing has been a gradual process that each individual goes through at their own pace, Marysville Schools Superintendent Becky Berg said.
That includes staff as well as students, she said.
“They show up every day and give it their all,” Berg said.
“Every day is a new day,” said Lori Stolle, an assistant principal at the school. “With time we get to see our kids going back to normal, doing normal things.”
Daryn Bundy, a 1981 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck, said that the new cafeteria represents unity between the school, the administration and the wider community.
“Our hearts and our community are still with every student here,” Bundy said.
The cafeteria in which the killing took place has been closed since the shootings. A survey of nearly 2,000 students, parents and other community members showed that the vast majority never wanted to use the old cafeteria again.
The new building, near the school’s athletic fields, will be 16,000 square feet and include a cafeteria, an ASB office, a kitchen, a student store and a classroom that can double as a meeting area.
Most of the $8.2 million cost is coming from the state, including a special $5 million appropriation from the Legislature. The district is contributing about $650,000 from its capital improvement budget.
None of the funding is in danger because of Marysville voters’ rejection this week of a $230 million bond measure. The bonds would have funded numerous improvements at Marysville Pilchuck and elsewhere in the district, but the cafeteria was always a separate project.
The new building is expected to open in the fall, after which the old cafeteria will be demolished.