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Most schools reopen in Newtown

Updated 6:43 pm, Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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  • Hawley Elementary School students leave on a school bus following school on Dec. 18th, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday was the first day that students in Newtown went back to class following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. Photo: Ned Gerard / Connecticut Post

    Hawley Elementary School students leave on a school bus following school on Dec. 18th, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday was the first day that students in Newtown went back to class following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.

    Photo: Ned Gerard

 

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NEWTOWN -- Amid a police presence and with heightened anxiety, five of the six schools in town reopened on Tuesday.

The sixth -- Sandy Hook Elementary School -- remained closed in the aftermath of the shootings Friday morning that killed 20 first graders and six professional educators.

A lock down was placed on Head O' Meadow Elementary School in the morning, before students were scheduled to arrive. Police have not commented to explain what triggered the lock down.

While tension appeared high outside, inside the schools many students were glad to be back as teachers helped them adjust.

"I wasn't really looking forward to going back to school because I knew a lot of my friends weren't going, because a lot of people thought it was too soon," said Jaden Albrecht, who returned to Newtown Middle School Tuesday.

But the 13-year-old said once she was there, she felt it was a good place to be.

Over the weekend she and friends had spoken with a grief counselor at Reed Intermediate School; they had also placed a memorial sign in Sandy Hook in honor of a friend's sibling who was a victim in the school shooting.

"I guess it was good to try and get back to normal," she said. "It was sort of sad still and no one really knew how to react. But the teachers made a point to say how glad they were to see everyone.

"It was good to know they care so much and that they care about our safety," she added. "I do feel safe in school. I know our teachers would do anything to protect us, they made a point of saying that."

Max Ames, who is also in eighth grade at Newtown Middle School, said he too was glad to be back in class.

"I felt relieved to see everyone. I was looking forward to it," he said. "Our teachers just wanted to connect with us and hear how we we're doing, but we really wanted to connect with them and see how they were doing."

Teachers asked students how they were feeling and if their families were OK.

"That made me feel safe and comforted," said Max, 13.

During first period, Max said teachers asked students to write questions and comments on note cards to be used for a discussion about the Sandy Hook tragedy.

"It was anonymous in case some kids were nervous," he explained. "I wasn't nervous. We asked how we can help and what will happen to the school. They said they are coming up with ways for us to help, and that the students will move to a school in Monroe for the rest of the year."

Teachers eased the kids back into their lessons, but also asked them to draw posters to brighten the empty walls of the Chalk Hill School in Monroe, where Sandy Hook students will eventually attend school this year.

"I drew a picture that said "Don't Worry, Be Happy," said Max.

Jaden said her teacher told her the Monroe school has furniture but nothing to decorate the walls, so she made a sign that said "Welcome to Chalk Hill" with happy bright colors around the border.

Jaden said she did not speak with the grief counselors who were available at her school Tuesday, but knew of some friends who were considering doing so.

"It was nice to know they were there," she said. "Me and a few of my friends went to the counseling office at Reed Sunday. Sometimes it's hard to keep feelings bottled up; you could say what you were feeling to the counselor."

Jaden said the counselor she and her friends spoke with assured them they will get through this difficult time, they said: "I guarantee it."

"It was really helpful to hear that," she said. "At first I thought it was too soon to go back, but after I went I thought it was good to be back and see other people. I was with my family all weekend; I love my family but it was good to be back."