The terrible grief that gripped the nation following the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in late 2012 is still with us, but nearly three-and-a-half-years after the tragedy, parents and students will get their first glimpse of the new school building on Friday.
After the December 2012 massacre that took the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators, the old Sandy Hook Elementary School was demolished. This fall, the new building will be open for students once again. Those who get the chance to see the new building on Friday, either on the media tour or at the public open house afterward, will notice that while it was built on the same property, the footprint for the new $50 million, 86,000-square-foot school is much different now.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the new design of the elementary school was created to do more than be a place of education, and the facility will also be an attractive, environmentally friendly setting. Above all, it will heal and protect. The safety of the school was paramount in its design.
The new school year will begin for on August 29, and Superintendent Joseph Erardi said that the local officials believed that by allowing the open house this week, it would give the students and the community a “quiet, respectful, and appropriate opening” before the teachers and students return.
In an effort to minimize the emotional impact, the students and educators, who are seeing the school for the first time since the shooting, will notice that the driveway and parking lots have been changed. The opening today was also meant to spare the attendees and staff media scrutiny when they return to school in September.
The new school was funded by a state grant and has several built-in safety features such as impact-resistant windows, as well as state-of-the-art video monitoring. The ground floor is elevated in an effort to make it harder to see inside of the classrooms from outside the building, and the new Sandy Hook Elementary School grounds has been landscaped to ensure that anyone who is approaching the school is clearly visible to all persons inside. Those entering the school can do so by one of three pedestrian bridges which cross over water, and the school grounds are now designed in a way to be more in tune with nature, having treehouses and courtyards.
First Selectman Pat Llodra gave a statement regarding the hopes for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Our goal was to create a place of community and learning, a place that would honor those we lost and allow those who were left behind the chance to move forward.”
Mixed emotions accompanied the opening, though, with the New York Times reporting that one special education aide at Reed Intermediate School, Lisabeth Kuroski, said the reopening of the school was bittersweet.
“It’s nice that the elementary school kids will come back home to Newtown. But it’s also a sad day, because you can’t be here at the opening of the school without thinking of the people we lost.”
Following the tragedy in 2012, the students from the old Sandy Hook school were moved to nearby Monroe where they were provided with a temporary school building since the original school was still a crime scene. Following many meetings, officials and residents decided to accept the money the state of Connecticut offered the school district to build a new facility, and they decided to demolish the old building hoping to help erase the horrific images of the loss and pain that had occurred there.
The 59 first-graders who survived the Sandy Hook Massacre will not be returning to the new school as they and the rest of their class, 79 students total, are moving up to the fifth-grade at Reed Intermediate School. The incoming fourth-grade class is the last set of students who were present during the Dec. 14, 2012 to be returning to the new school. The new school will educate a little less than 400 students from prekindergarten through to the fourth grade.
The new Sandy Hook Elementary School will not have a formal memorial to the Sandy Hook victims, and officials declined to answer if there would be another way to honor the lives taken, stating that conversations with the families impacted will guide the decision.
[Photo by Mark Lennihan/ AP Images]