Sandy Hook Survivors Head Back To School

Sandy Hook Survivors Head Back To School

The children who escaped last month's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut returned to classes on Thursday in a neighbouring town in a refurbished school now named after their old one.

Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson announced that the students' new school, the former Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe, has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School.

She said the Sandy Hook staff made that 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 house was held for parents and students on Wednesday.

Parents who want to be close to their children were told they could visit and stay in classrooms or an auditorium throughout Thursday.

Ms Robinson said renaming the Chalk Hill school will allow staff and students to keep "their identity and a comfort level".

Security outside of the Monroe school was tight early on Thursday.

Several police officers were guarding the entrance to the school, and were checking the IDs of parents dropping off children.

Asked about the level of security at the new school, Monroe police Lieutenant Keith White said: "I think right now it has to be the safest school in America."

Ms Robinson said Chalk Hill School has been transformed into a "cheerful" place for the surviving students to resume normal school routines. She said mental health counsellors continue to be available for anyone who needs them.

Several signs welcoming the Sandy Hook students to their new school were posted along the road leading to the school in a rural, mostly residential neighbourhood.

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 elementary 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.

Ms Robinson said teachers are trying 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."

The school where the shootings occurred remains closed and guarded by police.

Newtown officials have not decided yet on the building's future.

It has been nearly three weeks since the December 14 massacre, when gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 students and six educators.

Lanza also killed his mother at the home they shared in Newtown before the school shootings, which ended when Lanza fatally shot himself as police arrived.

Police have not released any details about a motive.

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