Authorities announced Monday that the Newtown, Conn., elementary school where 26 people, including 20 children, were gunned down, will be closed "indefinitely," but Chalk Hill School in nearby Monroe, Conn., could be ready to host Sandy Hook students and staff within days. No official word yet on when classes for those students will resume.
"It's a good idea that kids go back to school as soon as possible and normalize and get accustomed to a routine," said psychologist Susan Lipkins. "You want to make it as familiar and easy as possible so the transition is as smooth as possible for teachers, faculty and the children."
Most children do not understand death, Lipkins said, they understand that their parents and teachers are upset and draw on those emotions. She believes it would be best to have Newtown students return to classes, especially before the Christmas break, because it will help them adapt to the new situation.
"If they didn't have school this week that really would give the children too much time to get accustomed to being at home ... and it would increase their likelihood of developing phobias," she said.
Lipkins also agreed with the decision to have Sandy Hook remain closed because going back to the scene of the massacre would have been "too traumatic" for everyone.
"I think that the scene is too extreme and that it would be very hard to erase the memories," Lipkins said. "It's really good for everybody to have their normal routine but to have those physical manifestations would make it probably more stressful."
Police say Adam Lanza, 20, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, spraying bullets on students and faculty. Lanza killed 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.
Immediately after the shooting, Newtown officials began to consult therapists from Yale University's Child Study Center to help plan the next steps for the children.
Schools were closed in Newtown Monday as the tight-knit community said goodbye to 6-year-olds Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, who was buried in a New York Giants jersey of his favorite player, Victor Cruz. Other schools in the area, except for Sandy Hook, were reopened today.
Moving trucks were seen outside Sandy Hook Elementary Monday morning, as school officials moved furniture and supplies to Chalk Hill School.
Lt. Brian H. McCauley of the Monroe Police Department said Monday all the staff members at the alternate site will be from the Newtown school district, but Monroe may assist in security. Counselors will also be available at all schools. The goal was to make students feel safe, but not interfere with learning or go overboard, McCauley said.
Formerly a junior high school, Chalk Hill has not hosted students for at least a year. It is currently being used for Monroe's EMS and recreational departments, but the building is also outfitted with a day care center.
Monroe Fire Marshall William Davin said Monday that nearly 100 volunteers and contractors had been working since early Monday morning to the make necessary repairs to Chalk Hill, including checking fire alarms, outfitting toilets for youngsters and "preparing the classrooms to make the school feel as normal as possible."
Davin said the school could be ready "in a matter of days," but the Board of Education has not set a date for resumption of classes.