Three and a half years after a shooter opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 students and six staff members, a new school building with heightened security will welcome students back.
The construction of the new school, which was open for a media preview on Friday and is set to open next month, marks a bittersweet moment for community members still grieving.
“It’s nice that the elementary school kids will come back home to Newtown,” Lisabeth Kuroski, a special education aide at a nearby school, said. “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.”
In 2013, the Newtown school district agreed to demolish the elementary school, built in 1956, “out of respect for the tragedy that occurred there,” The New York Times reported. The design of the new school incorporates heavy security measures. Windows are bullet-resistant, classroom doors can be locked from the inside or outside, and interior walls are reinforced.
“In terms of security, the measures here are second to none,” Dr. Joseph V. Erardi Jr., the superintendent of Newtown schools, said at a press conference.
But the school’s reopening is one part of the grieving process, not a marker of its end, he told The Newtown Bee.
“The opening of the new school is not bringing [the community] full circle to the event. What it is doing is taking a large step forward. For people who believe that Newtown, and particularly Newtown’s schools, have completely recovered — we haven’t. This is a large step forward for the staff and faculty of Sandy Hook School that have worked hard to make sure that it will be a fine opening day for 380 youngsters,” Dr. Erardi said.
The new building adopted a nature-based theme to reflect Newtown’s landscape. So-called “tree house” spaces can hold small groups of instructors and students, and the exterior, paneled in warm wood, appears to undulate like the “surrounding rolling hills of Sandy Hook,” according to The Newtown Bee.
But the new school, with its new features, doesn’t ease the grieving, Pat Llodra, the town’s first selectman, said.
“Let me say unequivocally that we would trade in a minute this beautiful new school for the more familiar and aged Sandy Hook school built in the ’50s if we could just change the past,” Llodra said.
See more photos of the new school below.