(AP) Sandy Hook students, teachers head back to school
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN and PAT EATON-ROBB
Since escaping a gunman’s rampage at their elementary school, the 8-year-old Connors triplets have suffered nightmares, jumped at noises and clung to their parents a little more than usual.
Now parents like David Connors are bracing to send their children back to school, nearly three weeks after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. It won’t be easy _ for the parents or the children, who heard the gunshots that killed 20 of their classmates and six educators.
Classes are starting Thursday at a repurposed school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where the students’ desks have been taken along with backpacks and other belongings that were left behind in the chaos following the shooting on Dec. 14. Families have been coming in to see the new school, and an open house is scheduled for Wednesday.
An army of workers has been getting the school ready, painting, moving furniture and even raising the floors in the bathrooms of the former middle school so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets.
Connors, a 40-year-old engineer, felt reassured after recently visiting the new setup at the former Chalk Hill school in Monroe. 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.
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.
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.
It will be important for parents and teachers to listen and be observant, Ford said.
Parents might have a harder time with fear than children, Ford said.
Before the shooting, a baby sitter would take Connors’ children to the bus stop. But Connors said he’ll probably take the third-graders to the bus the first few days.
His children, who escaped unharmed, ask questions about the gunman.
Connors said his children are excited to go back to school but predicted they might be nervous as the first day approaches. He hopes the grief counseling services continue, he said.