Making students feel welcome is the goal school officials and police have for Sandy Hook Elementary students who will be returning to class on Thursday morning for the first time since 20 first-graders and six women were killed in a shooting rampage almost three weeks ago.
The students are being moved to Chalk Hill Middle School, seven miles away in Monroe, but the sign outside will say "Sandy Hook Elementary" because the name has officially been changed.
Janet Robinson, superintendent of schools in Newtown, said 80 people have been working to get the school ready for the students.
"Right now, Chalk Hill has been transformed from a middle school to a very cheerful, nurturing elementary school,” Robinson said.
Furniture has been moved from the old building and the building will be decorated like a winter wonderland, filled with snowflakes people from around the world sent to the Connecticut PTSA to help make the students feel welcome.
“The students coming in completes the circle,” Robinson said. "That's what's missing right now, is getting our students back."
Former principal Donna Page will lead the school and Robinson called this a “God send” to help the transition process.
Some of the set-up looks just like it did at Sandy Hook, but there will also be differences.
"Teachers were creative in setting up the rooms, and some of them are very different,” Robinson said.
Security is at the forefront of minds as children prepare to return.
The school will be able to accommodate parents who want to go into the school tomorrow, Robinson said.
School officials said police have worked tirelessly to make the school safe.
“I think, right now, it has to be the safest school in America,” Lt. Keith White, of Monroe police, said.
Police said they are stopping every vehicle that goes onto the campus and interviewing the people inside.
Several security devices have been installed and police will remain at the scene until further notice.
Teachers and staff were at the school on Wednesday morning. Several students and parents have already visited and the children were thrilled with the gymnasium, which is much larger than the one at their former school, White said.