Students from Sandy Hook Elementary School are returning to school Thursday. It will be the first time they are back in the classroom since Dec. 14, when an armed gunman forced his way into the school, shooting and killing 20 young children and six adults.
The surviving students will not be returning to the same school building. Instead, they will be going to an unused school building, formerly called Chalk Hill Middle School, located several miles away in Monroe, Conn.
The former school has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School, and will include a former principal, Donna Page, who retired from Sandy Hook in 2010, but agreed to come back after her successor, Dawn Hochsprung, was killed in the deadly massacre.
"That's who they are. They're the Sandy Hook family," Newtown School Superintendent Janet Robinson said after a news conference yesterday at a park in Monroe, located a few miles from the new school, where an open house was held for parents and students on Wednesday.
The students new classrooms have been furnished to look like the ones they left behind, complete with their old desks and other items left behind on the day of the tragic school shootings.
From the children’s old backpacks, coats, lunch boxes, and other school supplies, teachers and other staff members are trying to merge as much of the old with the new in a school setting that they hope looks welcoming. They even put up paper snowflakes sent in from around the world to greet the children upon their return to school today.
"This does not look like the other elementary school," Robinson said. "At one point there were 80 people in the building, cleaning out the building ... painting to make it really look cheerful and happy," she added.
Also greeting the school children will be extra police officers and counselors. While officers aren’t releasing details regarding security measures, several security devices have been placed in the new school, and police are stopping every vehicle that enters the campus.
“Right now, it has to be the safest school in America,” said Monroe Police Lt. Keith White.
Robinson confirmed, “It feels extremely secure there.”