Students who attended Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown are preparing to return to classes in a new location for the first time since an assault rifle-wielding gunman broke into their school last month and opened fire, killing 20 children and six educators before taking his own life.
An open house is being held Wednesday at a former middle school building in nearby Monroe to give parents and students the opportunity to ask questions, learn new security procedures and acclimate to their new surroundings.
Some families have already visited the school ahead of the start of classes on Thursday. The children have not attended classes since 20-year-old Adam Lanza's rampage Dec. 14.
Workers and teachers have been getting the space ready, painting, moving furniture and recreating classroom spaces in a manner that aims to make the kids and their families feel safe.
"The healing process for these kids is the most critical thing, and being together with familiar faces, I know that Newtown is taking great strides so that happens when they get over here," Monroe School Superintendent Jim Agostine said.
Counselors say it's important for children to get back to a normal routine and for teachers and parents to offer sensitive reassurances.
"There's certainly going to be children that are scared; they're going to be frightened and feel very insecure about going back, but a lot of them are going to be resilient," said Thalia Andernen, who works with The Center for Hope.
Fearful parents braced themselves for the transition as well.
"I'm not exactly sure how we're going to react. It's going to be hard," said David Connors, father of a Sandy Hook student. But Connors recognized the importance of returning to routine in an effort to adopt some new sense of normalcy.
"They want to see their teachers, they want to see their classes, they want to get back into their routine," he said.