The Sandy Hook Elementary School children who survived the horrific shootings on Dec. 14, are finally heading back to classes today. The kids were welcomed to their new school in neighboring Monroe Conn. by Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson for an orientation day yesterday. Robinson said about the kids’ return Wednesday, “They're so excited to see the teachers”. The Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown sadly claimed the lives of 20 first graders, and six adults when a gunman broke into the school and opened fire with automatic weapons. The new school is the former Chalk Hill School on the Monroe Middle School campus. Superintendent Robinson announced that the students' new school has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the Guardian today. She said the Sandy Hook staff made that decision. “That's who they are. They're the Sandy Hook family”, Robinson said after a news conference at a park in Monroe a few miles from the school.
Robinson added that renaming the Chalk Hill school will allow students and staff to maintain, “their identity and a comfort level”. The Newtown school where the shootings occurred remains closed and guarded by police. Officials have yet to decide on the future of the building.
The new school, seven miles and a 15 minute drive away, was refurbished especially for the Newtown Sandy Hook students. Teams of workers, many volunteers, prepped the former middle school with new coats of paint and classroom furniture.
The bathroom floors were even elevated so the smaller elementary school students are able to reach the toilets, reports CBS News. The students' desks, backpacks and other belongings that were left behind after the rampage at Sandy Hook were transferred to the new school to make the kids feel at home.
Robinson said the new school has been transformed into a “cheerful” place for the surviving students to ease back into their normal routines. She noted mental health counselors continue to be available for anyone who needs them.
When the children return today, one of the first faces they’ll see is that of former principal Donna Page. She is leading the new school as interim principal, saying it was her “calling” to return after the tragedy. Page was principal at Sandy Hook for 14 years until her retirement in 2010, according to ABC News.
Counselors contend it’s important to get the kids back into a normal routine and for parents and teachers to offer the children “sensitive reassurances”. “We want to get back to teaching and learning” Superintendent Robinson said.
“We will obviously take time out from the academics for any conversations that need to take place, and there will be a lot of support there. All in all, we want the kids to reconnect with their friends and classroom teachers, and I think that's going to be the healthiest thing”, she added.
CNN reports that security measures at the new school have been increased, with more cameras and locks, according to superintendent of Monroe Public Schools Jim Agostine. Monroe Police Lt. Keith White said, “I think right now it has to be the safest school in America”.