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With Those Lost In Mind, Sandy Hook Students And Staff Return To Classes

Early Thursday morning, a school bus carrying students from Sandy Hook Elementary headed to their new school.
Timothy A. Clary
AFP/Getty Images
Early Thursday morning, a school bus carrying students from Sandy Hook Elementary headed to their new school.

(Scroll down for updates. Our most recent was at 2:45 p.m. ET.)

Hoping that they have done their best to create "a safe and a secure learning environment for these kids," school officials in Connecticut today welcomed the 500 or so surviving students from Sandy Hook Elementary School and their teachers back to class.

It was the first "normal" day for them since Dec. 14, when a gunman forced his way into their school in Newtown. Before killing himself, 20-year-old Adam Lanza mortally wounded 20 first-graders and six educators.

We put quotation marks around the word normal, of course, because it's a lot to ask for a day such as this to be like any other day.

The students are going to a school called Sandy Hook Elementary, but it's not the building they were in a month ago. Instead, they're going to class at what was an unused school in the town of Monroe, about seven miles away.

Wednesday, as The Newtown Bee reports, parents, children and staff were able to visit the building. Monroe Police Department Lieutenant Keith White (who spoke about the "safe and secure learning environment") told the newspaper visitors to the school will be stopped and interviewed by a police officer, and that there are "multiple security options in place" (the newspaper's words, not White's).

The Hartford Courant adds that "police would not say what safety and security measures are being taken at Sandy Hook in Monroe, but [Newtown Superintendent Janet] Robinson said the school 'feels extremely secure.' "

A Sandy Hook parent, Sarah Caron, writes in The New Haven Register that:

"As I pulled into the driveway of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School at the former Chalk Hill middle school Wednesday, a Monroe policeman flagged me to stop and asked to see my license. A few yards ahead, I had to show it again.

"Handing it over for the second time, I wiped the stray tears from my cheeks. Though my children couldn't see from the back seat, I cried silently driving the distance from our Sandy Hook home to their new school.

"While I have moved ahead in many ways, going back to school remains a serious emotional hurdle for us to overcome."

The school officially opened at 9:07 a.m. ET. On its website, principal Donna Page writes that:

"I want parents and families enduring the loss of their precious children to know their loved ones are foremost in our hearts and minds as we move forward. We recognize your needs are paramount in our preparations and planning. Your strength and compassion has been, and will continue to be an inspiration to me and countless others as we work to honor the memory of your precious children and our beloved staff."

Jean Cochran reporting on the NPR Newscast

A sign of support for the Sandy Hook students, on a road between Newtown and Monroe, Conn.
Carlo Allegri / Reuters /Landov
Reuters /Landov
A sign of support for the Sandy Hook students, on a road between Newtown and Monroe, Conn.

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. Attendance Was "Very Good":

The Hartford Courant reports that "attendance was very good" today and that "most students arrived by bus. Parents were invited into the school as Sandy Hook principal Donna Page, Newtown School Superintendent Janet Robinson and members of the Newtown board of education greeted students and parents."

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET. Only Parents And Buses Permitted:

At the school this morning, "Monroe police directed traffic ... only permitting parents and buses onto the campus," The New Haven Register reports.

The newspaper adds that:

"Once closer to the school, a second checkpoint was set up. Police said Wednesday they would be stopping and interviewing everyone who entered the campus. One parent reported that her license was checked on Wednesday when visiting the school.

"By the time school began at 9:07 a.m., there was no traffic on the road that was before filled with parents and buses dropping off students. ...

"Parents were told by interim principal Donna Page that they were welcome to remain with their child on the first day of school. Page was the principal of Sandy Hook until her retirement in June 2010. She was succeeded by Dawn Hochsprung who was killed in the shooting."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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