Surviving students of the brutal shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012 will be returning to school on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.
Students will be returning to a former middle school named Chalk Hill. The school has been out of commission for the last two years because enrollment was reportedly too low to justify its continued operation. However, the middle school, located approximately five miles from Sandy Hook in Monroe, Conn., has transformed itself into a make-shift elementary school for the displaced students whose former elementary school is still considered a crime scene.
Kindergarten through fourth grade is scheduled to return on Thursday. Twenty first graders were shot and killed in their classroom on Dec. 14 by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, along with six staff members. It is believed that there were six first grade survivors, however numbers have varied based on conflicting reports. The shooter also suffered from a fatal, self inflicted gunshot wound.
An open house was scheduled for Wednesday, between the hours of 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.. Volunteers, staff members and contractors have been working around the clock to get the school set up in an exact replica of what the children left behind in order for them to feel more comfortable and at home upon their return. Teachers reportedly took pictures of their classrooms at Sandy Hook. Such attention to details were made so that if a child left a crayon or piece of paper at their desk at the time of their evacuation from the shooting, those items were placed in the same exact position as they left it during the restaging effort.
While the school’s previous Principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was among the fatalities of the shooting, the school’s former Principal, Donna Page, has decided to come out of retirement and rejoin her former students in effort to ease them into the transition. Page retired in 2010, but has committed to finishing out the school year in effort to regain some familiarity for the students.
Considering the trauma to both parents and students alike, the school is allowing a parent to shadow weary students for the first few days of school. Page wrote a message on the Sandy Hook website, asking that parents pick one person to stay with a child if they so choose, in light of space restrictions. The Principal also asked that students take the bus to familiarize themselves with the new routine. Parents will be allowed to join their students, if they wish, after the 9:07 a.m. opening assembly on Thursday.
ABC News reports that while academics are at the forefront of the school’s concern as students return, there will be counselors on site to help children who are having difficulty adjusting.
The Superintendent of the Newtown School District said that the new Sandy Hook school at Chalk Hill Middle will be the safest school in the country with unprecedented security systems in place, so parents can feel confident in their children’s safe return. Pictures of the school in recent days reveal squad cars in front of the school, likely placed there during school hours until school is dismissed for the summer.