Newtown massacre: Town tries to move on as schools reopen
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Tuesday 18 December 2012
Children across Newtown returned to school yesterday, the first time teachers and students filed into classrooms since the massacre that shook the town, and the nation, on Friday.
But hundreds of youngsters stayed at home, as Sandy Hook Elementary, the site of the killings, remained a crime scene.
The building might never be used to teach again. For now, alternative arrangements are being made at a mothballed school building in nearby Monroe, where district officials offered to refit the facility to welcome Sandy Hook's students. All efforts are being made to help the surviving students to settle in, with everything from furniture and wall hangings at the old building being shifted to the old Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe.
Plumbers, carpenters, electricians and other trades, many of whom bombarded the local police department with offers of help over the weekend, are making the kinds of the changes required to render Chalk Hill fit for younger children – lowering the height of dryers in the toilets, for example, and refitting washbasins. Work is expected to be completed today – however, it remains unclear when Sandy Hook's students will be asked to return to class.
Although teachers and administrators are making every effort to foster some sense of normality, there was no escaping the changed circumstances in the wake of last week's horrific events. For those children who were welcomed back yesterday, classes began two hours later than usual, with schools patrolled by police from Newtown and surrounding localities.
Counsellors were also due to be on hand to offer help and advice as the town attempts to begin the arduous process of healing. The Newtown Public School District said counselling services would be on offer at the local Reed Intermediate School.
The return to school came as grief-stricken families held funerals and memorials for the victims, with services planned on Tuesday for the six-year-olds Jessica Rekos and James Mattioli at the St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown. The visiting press corps, meanwhile, continues to intrude, although numbers are falling as attention focuses on the gun control debate in Washington.
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