Parents returned to school with students at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week as the community and state continue to recover from last month’s tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Nearly 95 percent of Sandy Hook Elementary School students were in school on Jan. 3, the first regular day of school since December. And more than 100 parents came to sit in a special parent room created by the school last week to smooth the back-to-school transition.
The room is still available to parents, but as the school community has begun to settle into its temporary building in nearby Monroe, the number of parents who accompanied their children to school has dwindled to 20, while teachers’ and students’ attendance has remained high, said Stefan Pryor, the state’s education commissioner.
Pryor joined governor Dannel P. Malloy, superintendent Janet Robinson, and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten in Newtown last week before the start of school. Though there was anxiety, Pryor said, teachers expressed “tremendous commitment to their students” and were eager to be with their students again.
Weingarten also emphasized the sense of compassion and community that was evident among Sandy Hook teachers and the support that’s come from educators nationwide. “People are very fragile, as you expect them to be,” she said. “But the human spirit is remarkable and you can see that people are going to move forward.”
The school community has continued to receive an influx of support and visitors from local, state, and national agencies. Teachers from the Monroe school district, for instance, have been assigned to the Sandy Hook school building to provide support to teachers who might need to step out of their classrooms, Pryor said. A DonorsChoose.org site set up for Newtown has collected enough money so far that every teacher in the state has a credit of more than $125 for a classroom project.
Mental health professionals from the state’s mental health and addiction services department and from the Newtown community remain in the school to support teachers and students, Pryor said.
The school itself was covered in snowflakes sent from classrooms nationwide as a gesture of support, and the school had been revamped to feature Sandy Hook’s colors and to fit the elementary school students.
Earlier this week, the state department of education also hosted a symposium featuring law enforcement officials, security professionals, and an architect, among others, for education officials and business officials who might be conducting risk assessments and considering changes to security practices in their schools, Pryor said.
The events at Sandy Hook also loomed large in Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s State-of-the-State address, delivered Wednesday in Hartford. The governor outlined the aims of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, announced last week, and used strong language to oppose suggestions that teachers and school officials should be armed. “More guns are not the answer,” the governor said.
Weingarten echoed that sentiment, saying that while the AFT advocated for a strong police presence at Sandy Hook to help students and teachers feel secure, changes in school security protocols should be intentional and not rushed. “Police have to be the fabric of the school community,” she said. “This is a long-term education process.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.