Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

January 4, 2013

School starts at new building for Sandy Hook kids

MONROE, Conn. — For her son’s first day of school since last month’s massacre at his Sandy Hook Elementary, Sarah Caron tried to make Thursday as normal as possible. She made his favorite pancakes, and she walked the second-grader to the top of the driveway for the school bus.

But it was harder than usual to say goodbye.

“I hugged him a lot longer than normal, until he said, ‘Mommy, please,”’ she said. “And then he got on the bus, and he was OK.”

Her 7-year-old son, William, was among more than 400 students who escaped a gunman’s rampage that killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook on Dec. 14. On Thursday, the returning students settled in at their old, familiar desks but in a different school in a different town.

Returning students, teachers and administrators were met by a large police presence outside their new school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where a middle school that had been shuttered for nearly two years was overhauled and renamed after their old school.

Several officers guarded the entrance and checked IDs of parents dropping off children.

Monroe police Lt. Keith White said attendance was very good and the children were getting back to “business as usual.”

“A lot of them were happy to see their friends they hadn’t seen in a while,” he said.

William’s classroom had been across the hall from a first-grade room where children and teacher Victoria Soto died, and he had been nervous about going back to school, Caron said. But an open house Wednesday at the school eased some of his fears.

“They didn’t talk about what happened at all,” she said. “They went in, met up with their teachers, had a little circle time and it was just about trying to get them back into school.”

Most of the students arrived at the new school in Monroe by bus, something school officials had suggested to help them get back into a familiar routine.

Nick Phelps, who lives a few blocks from the original Sandy Hook school, said his first-grader and third-grader are excited about the new school because it means a longer bus ride to Monroe, which is about 7 miles away.

He was there when the bus brought them home Thursday afternoon.

“I was never so excited to see my children and, certainly, to see my children get off the bus. There was a shared joy,” he said.  

About 80 parents attended an assembly Thursday with school and police officials, who fielded questions about security and activities planned for their children. White said security will remain at a high level for now and will be re-evaluated each week.

The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother inside their Newtown home before driving to the school. He shot his way into the building and carried out the massacre before committing suicide as police arrived.

On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the creation of an advisory commission that will review and recommend changes to state laws and policies on gun control, school safety measures and mental health services in the wake of the Sandy Hook rampage.

Teams of workers, many of them volunteers, prepared the new school and even raised bathroom floors so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets. The students’ backpacks and other belongings that were left behind after the shooting were taken to the new school to make them feel at home.

Students found the same chairs and desks, when possible. Their classroom walls were painted the same colors and hung with the same pictures. Other details, such as the location of bookshelves and cubby holes, were replicated as much as possible.

Newtown school Superintendent Janet Robinson said the school has been transformed into a “cheerful” place for the students. She said mental health counselors continue to be available for anyone who needs them.

Caron, 32, said her son knows what happened and has undergone counseling. She said her 5-year-old daughter, Paige, attends afternoon kindergarten at the school and has been dealing with nightmares about “snakes and bears and coyotes.”

“She wasn’t at school that day but was with me when we went to look for William at the firehouse,” Caron said. “Unfortunately, she heard more about it than I wish she did.”

Intellectually, Caron said, she knows her children will be very safe at their new school.

“But, emotionally,” she said. “It’s very hard to turn off the little ‘What if?’ that kind of hangs on and says, ‘Well, you know what, December 14th started out as a normal day, too.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 140417-Rail_Plan-001.jpg State Transportation seeks public input on rail plan

    The Georgia Department of Transportation held public meetings across the state this week to discuss its 2014 Georgia State Rail Plan.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140417-valdosta_appr#10C8BA.jpg Officials serve lunch to city employees

    The City of Valdosta hosted its annual employee appreciation luncheon Thursday at John W. Saunders Memorial Park.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140417-Wiregrass003.jpg Wiregrass learns through play

    For three years, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College has hosted its Wired Up! event to engage students, faculty and staff in a fun but educational activity day.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • rain.jpg More spills? Valdosta braces for more rain

    In the past four weeks, Valdosta has experienced four major rain events that dumped more than three to four inches of rain on the area per incident.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140117-Scott_SGMAC-001.jpg Moody in running for Afghan pilot mission

    Moody Air Force Base is one of three military bases being considered for a temporary mission to train Afghan pilots next year, Rep. Austin Scott told the South Georgia Military Affairs Council Thursday.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • City: Most overflows stopped

    The City of Valdosta reported Wednesday evening that all manhole overflows resulting from Tuesday’s heavy rains had stopped, with the exception of two.

    April 17, 2014

  • 140416-gov_deal002.jpg Signed into law

    Gov. Nathan Deal went on a signing tour Wednesday across Georgia, flying into the Valdosta Regional Airport to sign three bills into law.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 2 charged in N.C. kidnapping

    Two more people were charged in the kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor’s father, bringing the number to at least eight people who authorities say were involved in the elaborate plot.

    April 17, 2014

  • VSU opens spring senior art show Saturday

    Several graduating art seniors will present their show this weekend at Valdosta State University.

    April 17, 2014

  • 140415-water003.jpg Sewage problems persist

    Early Tuesday morning, Valdosta became saturated when the area received approximately three inches of rain from 4 a.m. to noon. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, 11 manholes throughout the City of Valdosta have spilled 286,500 gallons of wastewater into local waterways, and this number will continue to rise.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results