A sign for Chalk Hill School in Monroe, Conn., welcomes Sandy Hook students. (Jessica Hill / Associated…)
One day before children from Sandy Hook Elementary School return to class for the first time since last month's massacre, parents and children toured their new school during a Wednesday open house.
"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,” Sandy Hook Principal Donna Page said in a letter to parents posted on the school's website.
Page previously led the school, but has returned from retirement following the shooting.
On Thursday, classes are scheduled to begin, the first since Dec. 14 -- the day Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook before killing himself. Principal Dawn Hochsprung was among the dead.
A school in Monroe has been outfitted to try to make the transition for students as easy as possible, including renaming the shuttered Chalk Hill School as Sandy Hook Elementary. At one point, 80 people were at the school, cleaning and painting, Newtown School District Supt. Janet Robinson said at a news conference.
“Right now, Chalk Hill has been transformed from a middle school to a very cheerful, nurturing elementary school,” she told reporters.
Robinson said teachers met prior to parents and students arriving Wednesday afternoon and would meet again after they left.
The students “are so excited to see their teachers. And the students coming in completes the circle. That’s what is missing right now -- is getting our students back,” Robinson told reporters.
Student desks and classroom decorations have been transported to the new location when possible, Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek said.
Still, Robinson told reporters that the school wasn’t identical to the old building, and that “teachers were creative in setting up the rooms and some of them are very different.”
Vavrek said psychologists had told officials that creating as normal an environment as possible was important for the children in the aftermath of the shooting. A new gym floor and playground -- both funded by donations -- have been installed, he said.
A few days before Christmas, a fourth-grader toured the new Sandy Hook location and went to his old desk, where he recovered his e-reader left behind in the midst of the shooting, Vavrek said.
“He was just so happy to see he didn’t lose his possession,” Vavrek said. “He came in and saw it and it was like he never left.”
A lecture room at the new Sandy Hook -- about seven miles from the original location -- will remain open Thursday so parents can stay at the school “as long as they wish,” a note to parents posted on the school's website says.
Counselors will be on hand Thursday for staff, parents and students.
Evidence against Colorado shooting suspect to be revealed in court
At grounded Alaska oil rig, response crews remain on tense standby
Tuesday's skipped House vote on Sandy aid called 'cruel knife in the back'