Nashville's Covenant School was once clouded by a shooting. It's now brightened by rainbows.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The first time families returned to The Covenant School in Nashville after a shooting last year that killed six people, they were gathering in the chapel when someone noticed a rainbow outside.

The group streamed out to find a double rainbow in the clear blue sky with not a cloud or drop of rain in sight, said Christy Foster, Covenant director of communications. She began to tear up Tuesday as she recalled the moment while showing reporters the newly completed renovations of the private school, still recovering from the attack.

“To see all the children racing outside and playing under these rainbows — it was so much hope, so much joy, so much of God saying, ‘I’ve got you. I've got you. You are not alone,'” Foster said.

Rainbows, a biblical symbol of hope, seemed to keep appearing in the sky after that. One showed up at the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ — the school's temporary home for a year — and again weeks later when they had a meeting at a different church in town, Covenant Head of School Trudy Waters said.

“Every time we would meet as a group, it felt like the rainbow would show up. And, you know, you just can’t make that up,” she said.

A former student shot through the doors of the Christian elementary school on March 27, 2023, killing three children and three adults before being fatally shot by responding officers, police said. The attack was elaborately planned and the shooter had drawn a detailed map and conducted surveillance of the building, authorities have said.

Today, the rainbow has become the overarching theme of the renovated building.

A painting of the double rainbow as it appeared over the school after the shooting now decorates the front entry. There are also strings of rainbow-colored paper cranes, spontaneous gifts sent by people around the country who were moved by the tragedy here.

“They are really a reminder of all the people that have supported us,” Waters said.

That support has included a design business that donated time and materials to the renovation, which included new paint, carpet, furniture and decor. The Joel Foundation, led by entertainer Billy Joel and wife Alexis Joel, donated musical instruments and helped update the school's performing arts space. And many other groups and individuals contributed their time and talents.

Covenant had considered not moving back into their old building, which shares a space with the Covenant Presbyterian Church, and school leaders heard many varying opinions on what was best, Waters said.

In the end, “we felt like our main way to survive and move forward would be to find the ability to be back in this space," she said. “We spent a whole lot of, you know, not just time and money, but real energy in figuring out how to do that.”

Translucent plastic panels in muted rainbow colors now hang from the ceiling of a hallway leading to a giant painting in similar colors. The canvas has been covered by the school's children and staff with overlapping layers of words and pictures that they associate with the three small children and three adults killed in the building. They include Bible passages, drawings of cats, even the words “hot dog” for a favorite meal. The painting is one of the few visual reminders of the shooting — a way to try to honor the people they lost without triggering traumatic memories.

That's not always possible, Waters said.

“I’ve learned that it’s hard to avoid all of it," she said. ...”It’s what the story is. And we don’t want to stop moving forward and living. So we have to figure out how to live with it."

The Covenant School resumed classes in their old building in mid-April, after spending a little more than a year in donated space at the Brentwood Hills church. Waters and Foster said the move back has been challenging but ultimately successful.

“The building is full of laughter. It is full of joy. ... It is full of learning," Foster said. "People are doing their math facts, their multiplication tables. They’re taking their spelling tests. They’re learning to read. We’re doing school. And the kids, they’re being kids.”