Classes resumed at 9 a.m. for the surviving students of Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary school Thursday at Chalk Hill School, a school approximately seven miles away in Monroe, Conn., that was closed down in 2010 but recreated for the 500 students of Sandy Hook.
Students entered classrooms where furniture and their belongings were brought from the Newtown elementary school, in order to create a comfortable environment for the students who have not returned to their classrooms after a gunman killed 20 classmates and six adults at the school on Dec. 14. Chalk Hill has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to Newtown superintendent Janet Robinson.
As a Sandy Hook elementary school banner stretched across the renovated Chalk Hill school, and ribbons in Sandy Hook's school colors, green and white, hung on mailboxes and fence posts in the town of Monroe. The new school will also have a new principal, Donna Page, who was Dawn Hochsprung's predecessor for more than a decade before retiring in 2010. Principal Page wrote in a letter posted on the school's website:
"Please know the inspiration you and your children have been to my staff and me as we connect with you at Chalk Hill. Be assured that the towns of Monroe and Newtown are working night and day to ensure the facility is safe, secure, and fully operational for our return."
In addition to encouraging students to take the bus to get back to a normal routine, the school is also allowing one adult family member to accompany each child throughout the day. Comfort dogs will also roam around the school to greet students as they did in Newtown for days following the shooting.
"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," Page wrote. "Your strength and compassion [have] 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."
The school hosted an open house for families on Wednesday and offered a walk-through of the repurposed elementary school, where volunteers and teachers cleaned and painted the school to make it look similar to their old classrooms. New security systems were also installed at the new school, with a strong police presence surrounding the premises. Monroe police lieutenant Keith White said, "I think right now it has to be the safest school in America."