MONROE, Conn. — The youngsters who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary returned to class Thursday for the first time since the shooting rampage, settling in at their old, familiar desks but in a different school in a different town.
Classes resumed for the first time since last month's shooting in Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators.
With their original school still being treated as a crime scene, the more than 400 students are attending classes at a refurbished school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Law enforcement officers have been guarding the new school, and by the reckoning of police, it is "the safest school in America."
The school district said parents who want to be close to their children are welcome to visit and stay in classrooms or an auditorium throughout the day. Parents were encouraged to have their children take the bus to help them return to familiar routines.
Still, Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson said officials will do their best to make the students feel at ease.
"We will go to our regular schedule," she said. "We will be doing a normal day."
Returning students, teachers and administrators were met by a large police presence on a sunny and cold day with temperatures hovering near 10 degrees Several police officers were guarding the entrance to the school, and were checking IDs of parents dropping off children.
On Wednesday, the students and their families were welcomed at an open house at their new school, which was formerly the Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe but renamed as the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Students received gift boxes with toys inside and shared joyful reunions with teachers.
Teams of workers, many of them volunteers, prepared the Chalk Hill school and even raised bathroom floors so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets. The students' backpacks and other belongings that were left behind following the shooting were taken to the new school to make them feel at home.