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Sandy Hook kids face 1st class since shooting

January 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Sandy Hook Elementary School students returned to class on Thursday for the first time since a gunman killed 20 of their classmates.

They didn't return to the same building. A nearby middle school in a neighboring town has been transformed into a new Sandy Hook Elementary. The new school is about seven miles from the original Sandy Hook Elementary School, which is still considered a crime scene.

The students saw welcome signs along the road on their way to the new school. The community is showing its support. The superintendent wants the first day back to be as normal as possible.

Inside the former middle school that closed two years ago, you'll find decorative snowflakes. Teachers have worked feverishly to transform the building in neighboring Monroe, Conn. into Sandy Hook Elementary to make sure students feel comfortable and safe when they arrive.

"I think right now it has to be the safest school in America," described Lt. Keith White with Monroe police.

Police from Monroe, Newtown and other neighboring towns patrolled the area around the school so students and their parents feel safe.

"Obviously, we don't want to over burden them with police. We want this to be a normal school where they can go and enjoy themselves and learn throughout the day," White said.

Many of the students and their parents toured their new school on Wednesday during an open house.

"There's no real playbook for this. I don't think any of us really have a playbook so we're just kind of sensing our child and trying to meet the needs that we can and just support them," said Denise Corrieia, the mother of a Sandy Hook Elementary student.

The daughter of former Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, one of the first victims of last month's killing spree, says her mom would be there in spirit.

"The doughnuts that she used to bring in, somebody saying we're going to miss those, and I go, 'I'll bring them,' you know, she'll still be there," she said.

In a town where for many, there may never be closure, this day marks a small step forward in healing.

"The students coming in completes a circle. That's what's missing right now is getting our students back," said Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson.

For the first few days back to school, parents are allowed to be in the classrooms with their children. Mental health counselors will also be available.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at the home they shared in Newtown before driving to the school, where he slaughtered 20 children and six educators, including the school's principal. Lanza fatally shot himself as police arrived. Police haven't released any details about a motive.

To make a contribution to the Newtown Memorial Fund please visit: www.newtownmemorialfund.org