Stories of "excited" students, "good" attendance, and therapy dogs are emerging from the former Chalk Hill School in Monroe, Connecticut, a newly refurbished school where Sandy Hook Elementary students attended class Thursday for the first time since 20 of their fellow students and six adults who worked at the school were killed in the December shooting.
In a press conference — parts of which can be seen in the AP video below and at NBC News — Monroe Police Lt. Keith White said that when getting off their schoolbus this morning students were "excited — they had seen friends they hadn't seen in a while, they were anxious to get into the hallways and meet up with the other kids. And you could see the teachers had they same response. They were quite excited to see the students all together." He added that therapy dogs and counselors were available at the school all day. A note on Sandy Hook's website explained that: "Parents choosing to join their children may come to school after our 9:07 a.m. opening and will be welcome in the classroom or the auditorium throughout the day." The school requested only one parent attend. An assembly was held for parents, according to White.
Peter Applebome and Marc Santora of the New York Times focused on the aesthetics of the former Chalk Hill School, a middle school remade over the last month for elementary school students. Community members helped move furniture, desks, and backpacks from Sandy Hook's previous location some seven miles away from Newtown. The familiar items helped elicit some of that excitement, Edith Honan of Reuters explained. One kindergartener, who attended the open house Wednesday with her mother, was "thrilled to find her cubby intact."
But even with the excitement Applebome and Santora do note the sadness that surrounded the occasion: "At the Demitasse Café in Sandy Hook, where white paper hearts from around the country hung in the windows, Chris Maurer said that as he was driving Thursday morning, he noticed one or two bus stops where children would normally be waiting to be picked up, but were empty."
While there was a police presence at the school — Honan noted that officers from Monroe were patrolling the grounds — White explained: "we don't want them to think this is a police state."