Keeping them close: A woman hugs a young boy, who had attended Sandy Hook school, before he boards a bus to a newly set-up school in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut

A re-purposed school opens today for students  who attended Sandy Hook Elementary ahead of classes which begin  tomorrow.

The open house is at a former middle  school  in the neighboring town of Monroe. Workers and teachers have been getting the  space ready – painting, moving furniture and recreating classroom  spaces.

Some families have already visited Chalk Hill  school ahead of classes on Thursday. Children have not attended school since a  gunman killed 20 of their classmates and six adults in a December 14 rampage in  Newtown, Connecticut.

Counselors say it’s important for children to  get back to a normal routine and for teachers and parents to offer sensitive  reassurances.

Keeping them close: A woman hugs a young boy, who had attended Sandy Hook school, before he boards a bus to a newly set-up school in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut

The Monroe school has been set up to look  like Sandy Hook elementary. The students’ desks have been taken there along with  backpacks and other belongings that were left behind in the chaos following the  massacre last month when gunman Adam Lanza shot dead 26 at the school before  turning the gun on himself.

A team of workers have been painting  colorful signs, changing the furniture and even raising the floors of the middle  school so  that the smaller students can reach the toilets.

Acting Sandy Hook principal Donna Page wrote  on the school’s website: ‘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.’

Ms Page took on the role after the elementary  school’s principal Dawn Hochsprung was killed in the attack.

She added that parents who wanted to come  with their children to the first day of classes on Thursday would be made  welcome.

Sandy Hook school in Newtown remains closed  and has no date scheduled for reopening. It remains a crime scene following the  December massacre.

Father David Connors said his eight-year-old  triplets have suffered nightmares, jumped at noises and clung to their parents  since they escaped the shooting.

Mr Connors said: ‘I’m nervous about it. It’s  unchartered waters for us. I know it’s going to be difficult.’

Connors, a 40-year-old engineer, said he felt  reassured after recently visiting the new setup. He said his children were  excited to see their backpacks and coats, and that the family was greeted by a  police officer at the door and grief counselors in the hallways.

Teachers will try to make it as normal a  school day as possible for the children, schools Superintendent Janet Robinson  said.

‘We want to get back to teaching and  learning,’ she said. ‘We will obviously take time out from the academics for any  conversations that need to take place, and there will be a lot of support there.  All in all, we want the kids to reconnect with their friends and classroom  teachers, and I think that’s going to be the healthiest thing.’

Teachers are returning as well, and  some  have already been working on their classrooms. At some point, all  those will be  honored, but officials are still working out how and when  to do so, Robinson  said.

‘Everyone was part and parcel of getting as  many kids out of there safely as they could,’ she said.

‘Almost everybody did something to  save  kids. One art teacher locked her kids in the kiln room, and I got a message from  her on my cellphone saying she wouldn’t come out until she saw a police  badge.’

After the evacuation, teachers  grouped their  children at a nearby fire station, Robinson said. One sang songs, while others  read to the students, she said.

Julian Ford, a clinical psychologist  at the  University of Connecticut who helped counsel families in the days immediately  following the shooting, recommended addressing it as  questions come up but  otherwise focusing on regular school work.


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