In an effort to help heal, the Chattanooga elementary school struck by tragedy last week sought to provide students with a stable environment Monday, their first day back after Thanksgiving break.
There were 15 counselors, five therapy dogs, hundreds of teddy bears and thousands of hugs for the students of Woodmore Elementary School who continue to grieve, said Brenda Adamson-Cothran, the school's principal.
"Our kids had a good day," she said.
Six students were killed and 12 hospitalized after 24-year-old bus driver, Johnthony Walker, crashed the school bus into a tree while speeding along Tully Road on Nov. 21, the authorities said. Three students remained in critical condition Monday afternoon with another two were listed as fair.
Adamson-Cothran spoke at a news conference along with Hamilton County Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly in front of Woodmore Elementary School.
Kelly said 292 of 346 students, or 85 percent, attended their classes.
"We are encouraging all students to attend school," the school said in a statement. "We truly feel that being back at school and in a routine is the best way for students to begin to heal from this terrible tragedy."
Walker faces six vehicular homicide charges, and records released Friday showed students and administrators raised concerns about Walker's driving prior to what was Walker's second school bus crash this year.
Kelly said he could not comment further on the bus driver during an ongoing investigation, but Walker's lawyer said Monday her client would likely plead not guilty to the charges.
Amanda Dunn told the Associated Press the accident has been devastating for her client and his family. She said she hoped for a quick investigation and respect for the privacy of Walker's family.
Federal authorities say Walker left the designated bus route when he wrecked on a narrow, curvy road while carrying 37 children. Authorities suspect Walker was speeding, according to records.
Fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga
The defense and prosecution said Walker will appear briefly in court Tuesday in Hamilton County to delay a preliminary hearing until Dec. 15.
Bus 366, the bus involved in the crash, has been replaced with bus 357, according to the school. They vowed the bus is being driven by an experienced driver, and a school district staff member will ride all buses for the morning and the afternoon route. The bus involved in the crash was operated by Durham School Services.
Anderson-Cothran asked that anyone wishing to help the victims and their families donate to The Woodmore Fund or take physical donations to New Monumental Baptist Church on Woodmore Lane in Chattanooga where volunteers will be working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET every day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report