Classes resumed Thursday morning for students and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School for the first time since a gunman opened fire inside, killing 20 children and six adults.
All preparations for a "normal" school day were made, yet it was likely to be anything but for the students.
The original school in Newtown is still being treated as a crime scene, so students were bused to neighboring Monroe to attend class at Chalk Hill Middle School, which has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary.
"Buses arrived on time, a lot of kids were happy and excited," said Monore Police Lt. Keith White during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Former Sandy Hook Principal Donna Page and Vice Principal Cathy Mazzariello met students and parents as they arrived.
"Kids were excited and anxious to get back in school with friends and teachers," White said.
Chalk Hill Middle School was closed for 1 1/2 years. After the massacre in Newtown, town officials scrambled to prepare the facility and assist their neighbors in getting students back to as normal a routine as possible.
"It won't be a heavy curriculum," said Newtown School Superintendent Janet Robinson Wednesday during a news conference. "But they need to do the things that are important for kids and to have a normal routine."
During the press conference Thursday, White said overall attendance at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School was good. An assembly was held in the lecture hall, which was attended by 60 "concerned" parents.
"I believe the parents were satisfied with the answers they were given under the circumstances," White said.
Parents commented on how they talked to children.
"There's no real playbook for this," said one unidentified parent. "I don't think any of us have a playbook, so we're kind of just sensing our child and trying to meet the needs that we can."
A number of security measures have also been implemented, prompting officials to dub the school the "safest school in America." Newtown and Monroe school officials said students will finish up the current school year in Monroe, which is why officials renamed the school.
"Police putting safety first, and working together to keep environment safe," White said. "Security is on a week-to-week basis."
Police said there were no reported incidents
"We want to let them know this is a school, a school first," White said. "A place where they come to learn, enjoy their friends."
Police were unaware of any parents who wanted to move their children to another Newtown school to avoid their children traveling seven miles to class.
There was a noticeable police presence at the school Thursday. Monroe police said it will make those resources available as long as need be.
"We'll have support for parents if they so desire it," White said. "We'll have ability for them to be in building as much as they need to be in order to make transition as smooth as possible."
Students, staff start first day back with mixed emotions
Since the massacre at Sandy Hook, contractors, teachers and volunteers spent hours upon hours painting and preparing the new building in advance of the students' arrival Thursday morning. The building has been completely transformed into a bright, cheerful place of learning and comfort.
Trucks have been busy transporting as much furniture from the old building as possible, and returning students were expected to find their desks exactly how they left them the day they all escaped the school, right down to where one teacher had placed a box of Tic Tacs in the same spot it was left.
Welcome signs surround the new school, and hundreds of snowflakes made and sent to the school from well-wishers around the world line the hallways and windows inside to make it look like a winter wonderland for the students trying to cope with the tragedy.
Still, students, parents and staff started the day with mixed emotions as the first day of school began.
"We ask her if she's excited and she says 'Yeah,' she's excited, but, you know, you can see the question in their eyes," said parent John Eisele. "You can see it. They're all nervous. Very nervous."
School officials hoped to help put students' mind at ease by having therapy dogs available at the school.
Parents and guardians were allowed to spend some time at the school either in the classrooms or waiting inside the school's auditorium.
Mental health staff from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health along with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families were made available to students, teachers and staff.
Police said they don't want to overwhelm students with a large police presence, but they will be at the school for at least the next few weeks.
On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother as she slept in her bed. He then traveled the few miles to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he proceeded to shoot out a security window, make his way into the building and kill 20 children and six adults.
He then shot and killed himself as police made their way into the school.
Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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