HARRISBURG, N.C. — Students at A.C.E Academy had their first day back since winter break on Monday. It's also the first school day without 8th grader Aveanna Propst, who was shot and killed at Concord Mills Mall on December 28.
Her death is having a major impact on the community. Hundreds of people went to the 13-year-old's funeral on Saturday, including her teachers and classmates.
The school made grief counselors available to students over the break. Monday, the focus was on healing.
Laila Minott, the Executive Director and founder of the school, told NBC Charlotte they are like a family, and it was a difficult morning -- especially for Aveanna Propst's siblings who attend the school and were back in class.
A lot of teachers focused on letting students talk about how they're feeling instead of school work.
“They go to school Monday morning and I know my niece is going to have a desk that’s sitting there empty," Aveanna Propst’s aunt Gitana Propst said at her funeral. "It’s just going to be empty."
The hallways of A.C.E Academy were a little bit emptier Monday as Aveanna Propst's classmates and teachers grapple with her death.
“She was actually my teacher," her English teacher Jaime Alsop said. "She taught me how to be pure and how to be authentic."
Aveanna Propst was killed by a stray bullet when she was leaving Dave & Buster's. Two teens are now charged in her death.
Minott said students went through a range of emotions, a lot of them asking teachers why something like this happened.
“It’s still sort of unbelievable, but we're going to make it because the A.C.E. family is a very strong family," Alsop said. "We're going to be OK."
School officials are letting students express themselves -- some students went in over winter break to paint a rock outside of the school as a memorial for the teen.
She'll get her own page in the yearbook and her parents will get her 8th-grade graduation cap and gown at the end of the school year.
The school is prepared to give students as long as they need. Alsop said they have grief counselors in place.
“I think it will take a while to get used to but I think we'll be fine,” Alsop said.
Aveanna Propst was a cheerleader and basketball player. Minott says they’ll have their first game without her on Wednesday, but the coaches are prepared to just let the team talk at practice.