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Sandy Hook Students Excited to Be Back in School [Updated]

Officials say Chalk Hill, now officially known as Sandy Hook Elementary School, will be a safe and secure learning environment for the students when they return tomorrow for the first time since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown.

Update at 2:40 p.m. on Jan. 2:

News satellite trucks assembled in the Wolfe Park parking lot on a frigid Wednesday afternoon and a long row of TV cameras captured live broadcasts of a press conference on Sandy Hook Elementary School's move into Monroe's Chalk Hill building. Classes will start there tomorrow morning.

Monroe police officers are keeping members of the media and well-meaning volunteers away from the school building, so Sandy Hook students and teachers can get back into as normal a routine as possible.

Monroe Lt. Keith White told reporters that Sandy Hook Elementary School faculty met Wednesday morning to discuss how they will move forward.

"It was the first time they saw the building as a group," White said.

By the early afternoon, parents were arriving at the school for an open house.

Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said the name on the Chalk Hill building now reads: Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Robinson said she is grateful to Monroe police officers for making the building safe and secure, and for the Town of Monroe for offering its building. "We've had incredible support from Monroe," she said.

"At one point there were 80 people in the building" helping to set classrooms up, Robinson said. "We're trying to make it a warm, cheerful environment."

Walls are adorned with many snowflakes from around the world, she said.

Some Monroe teachers have worked side-by-side with Newtown teachers in preparing the classrooms, Robinson said, adding there was laughter between them, showing Sandy Hook's teachers spirits are lifting since the horrific shooting on Dec. 14 that claimed the life of 20 students and six educators.

"The children are coming in," Robinson said of today's open house. "They are so excited to see their teachers."

White said police officers are stopping cars and talking to drivers before they enter school grounds. At the same time, he said, they are trying not to overwhelm the children with the police presence and will constantly evaluate the situation to strike the right balance of creating a safe, secure school environment without making students and teachers feel like it's too heavily guarded.

When asked if the state or federal government would fund some of the overtime being incurred by police, Monroe Police Chief John Salvatore said, "We haven't discussed finances yet, we're just trying to make it a safe and secure building."

Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe said patrols are still beefed up in his town at schools and municipal buildings. There are officers in every school.

"We're trying to bring back some sense of normalcy," he said.

White said Sandy Hook students appear to be very excited about having some things in Monroe's building that they did not have in their old one. In particular, he noted with a smile, the size of the gymnasium has been the source of a great many smiles from the students.

"They'll be welcomed when they walk through the door tomorrow," White said. "Their teachers want to see them."

The original report follows:

Monroe and Newtown police and school officials are readying for a press conference at Chalk Hill Elementary School — a former part of the Monroe Public School System that was closed in 2010 — where Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary students toured the school Wednesday morning for the first time since the tragic Dec. 14 shooting of 20 school children and six educators.

Officials are expected to comment on the students’ and teachers’ first day back in class and answer questions from the media. According to sources at the conference, it will begin shortly, once member of the Newtown Board of Education arrive.

Check back with Monroe Patch for more as the conference starts.

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