Sandy Hook shooting children start new school
on 03/01/2013 08:27:22
Newtown superintendent of schools Janet Robinson said the pupils' new home, the former Chalk Hill Middle School, in neighbouring town Monroe, had been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School and that the Sandy Hook staff had been behind the decision.
"That's who they are. They're the Sandy Hook family," Ms Robinson said after a news conference at a park in Monroe a few miles from the school. An open day was held for parents and students yesterday.
Ms Robinson said renaming the Chalk Hill school would allow staff and children to keep "their identity and a comfort level".
The Newtown school where the shootings occurred remains closed and guarded by police. Town chiefs have not decided on the building's future.
Children attending other schools in Newton went back yesterday.
It has been nearly three weeks since the December 14 massacre, when gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 students and six staff. Lanza also killed his mother at the home they shared in Newtown before the school shootings, which ended when he shot himself as police arrived.
Police have not released any details about a motive.
Numerous police officers guarded the outside of the Monroe school, about seven miles from the old school, and told reporters to stay away.
Asked about the level of security at the new school, Lt Keith White of Monroe police said: "I think right now it has to be the safest school in America."
Teachers attended staff meetings at the new school yesterday morning and were visited by governor Dannel Malloy before the open house, Lt White said.
Donna Page, a retired Sandy Hook principal, will lead the new school.
Ms Robinson said Chalk Hill School had been transformed into a "cheerful" place for the surviving pupils to resume normal school routines. She said mental health counsellors continued to be available for anyone who needs them.
Several signs welcoming the Sandy Hook children to their new school were posted along the road leading to the school in a rural, mostly residential neighbourhood. One said "Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary Kids" while a similar sign added "You are in our prayers".
Teams of workers, many of them volunteers, prepared the Chalk Hill school with fresh paint and new furniture and even raised bathroom floors so the smaller primary school students can reach the toilets.
The students' desks, backpacks and other belongings that were left behind following the shooting were taken to the new school to make them feel at home.
Counsellors say it is important for children to get back to a normal routine and for teachers and parents to offer sensitive reassurances.
When classes start, Ms Robinson said teachers would try to make it as normal a school day as possible for the children.
"We want to get back to teaching and learning," she 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."