Almost three weeks after the December 14 massacre that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six teachers at a Newtown, Connecticut primary school, students will resume classes on Thursday.
But while the school bears the same name, Sandy Hook Elementary School, it will open in a new location (formerly the Chalk Hill Middle School) in the nearby town of Monroe. The school where the shootings took place remains closed off and under police surveillance.
More security, mental health counsellors
One day before the school building in Monroe opens its doors to former Sandy Hook students and teachers, police officers swarmed the premises, which have been equipped with a beefed-up security system, including more cameras and locks on doors.
Students, parents and teachers were also received at the new school the same day for an open house, during which the state’s governor, Dannel Malloy, paid a visit. Several signs were posted along roads in the semi-rural area encouraging and welcoming the students.
Meanwhile, mental health counsellors are expected at the school to talk to students or teachers seeking support, after surviving a harrowing experience that forced many of them to hide in classroom corners and closets as the shooter roamed the hallways firing an assault rifle.
The former Chalk Hill school has been refurbished with a new coat of paint, renovated bathrooms and new furniture, while many of the amenities and possessions left at Sandy Hook when the students and teachers fled -- including the school’s pet turtle -- have been relocated to the new school.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said the priority was for students and teachers to be comfortable while attempting to resume a familiar routine.
“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.”
As the new Congress meets Thursday, gun control is expected to be a top legislative priority, with a broad review of gun violence currently being overseen by Vice President Joe Biden.