Sandy Hook students, parents prepare for emotional return to school

Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

MONROE, Conn.—Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers, students and parents are preparing for an emotional return to school on Thursday at a repurposed facility here, less than a month after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults—including principal Dawn Hochsprung—at their school in Newtown, Conn.

On Wednesday, a day before classes are set to resume, students and parents are scheduled to attend an open house at Chalk Hill School, a former middle school that workers have prepared to house the Sandy Hook children. School officials say they have tried to completely re-create classrooms in an effort to make students as comfortable as possible.

Parents are being encouraged to attend school with their children on Thursday.

"I want to reassure you that we understand many parents may need to be near their children on their first day(s) of school and you will be welcome," interim principal Donna Page wrote in a letter to parents. "That being said, we encourage students to take the bus to school in order to help them return to familiar routines as soon as possible. Parents choosing to join their children may come to school after our 9:07 a.m. opening and will be welcome in the classroom or the auditorium throughout the day."

To "ensure a safe and secure environment," Page continued, "we ask that no more than one adult family member accompany his/her child."

[Related: Scenes from Newtown, Connecticut]

Some of the therapy dogs that have blanketed Newtown in the wake of the shootings will also be present at the school to comfort the children. Ten golden retrievers from Chicago's Lutheran Church Charities, which were sent to Newtown to comfort survivors last month, traveled back to Newtown on New Year's Day to prepare for the school's reopening.

Other public schools in Newtown reopened within a week of the shootings, but Sandy Hook Elementary has remained closed since Dec. 14, when 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza shot his way into the school and opened fire before turning a gun on himself. Lanza also killed his mother in their Newtown home before going on the rampage, one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

"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 also wrote. "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."