Inside Sandy Hook School: Learning To Heal

A school bus passes a welcome sign outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Monroe on the first day back to school. (Reuters)

And the decor of the building was intentionally designed to match the original Sandy Hook.

"The amount of work they did was impossible," said Dennis Stratford, who works as a courier for Newtown schools and visits Chalk Hill daily.

"There is nothing sad about the structure," he said. "It was filled with these beautiful decorations. So the walls were filled with snowflakes and wintry stuff [when the students returned to school]."

School administrators made a rule to not have any angels or the names of victims on the school walls, which were common around town in late December and early January.

"That was already in the air; you didn't need it to be on the walls," Dennis Stratford said. "Even though there was all of that beauty, there was still the sadness. There wasn't a dry eye that walked through that school."

In addition to the new school, the police and the counselors, there are new routines.

For example, on Dec. 14, the public address system was on and so students and staff could hear the shooting even in the far reaches of the school. In the hopes of preventing the new PA system from triggering memories, announcements are preceded by the tinkling of a bell.

"So, it's not this crackling noise and then announcements. ... It's like Pavlov's dog. Some sound can trigger a memory, or a smell can trigger a memory, or a sight of something," Andrea Stratford said.

School officials have applied for federal money for counselors. In late May, the U.S. Department of Education announced a $1.3 million grant to assist Newtown schools with recovery. It's too soon to know how long counselors will be needed.

Academically, the Stratford's son, Luke, is great, they said. He's reading on a first-grade level -- one grade ahead. But there's the concern that he will find out soon what happened at his school from older children who are talking bluntly about it, Andrea Stratford said. She interacts with local children at her dance studio, and the third-graders and fourth-graders at Sandy Hook know exactly what happened.

"[And] they are aware that there are some teachers who are not back," Andrea Stratford said.

Luke still thinks his teacher's bleeding foot was probably from broken glass as the school "was breaking."

"Now, he starts to hear things," Dennis Stratford said. "Older kids from the neighborhood or something. He knew something wasn't right that day from all the police that kicked his door open in the classroom."


Amy DeLoughy is reminded of the shooting just by looking out the windows of her home.

"We actually live on Yogananda Street right near where Adam Lanza lived," DeLoughy said. "[It] is an added factor that impacts the kids daily."

Her former next-door neighbors, Nicole and Ian Hockley, moved out as fast as they could, unable to remain near the home of the man who killed their son, Dylan.

DeLoughy has two children who were at the school during the shooting: Mark, 9, is in third grade, and Riley, 7, is in first grade. Not long after the shooting, DeLoughy said, her children asked her, 'If [Adam Lanza] was in the house and he is bad, how do we know there is nobody else there that's bad?' "

The unsettling feeling of knowing that a killer lived across the street, and the trauma of that day in the school, kept Mark from sleeping at night. He was reluctant to go to bed. He had nightmares.

"He told me every time he closed his eyes he would hear the sounds from that day," DeLoughy said. "So we worked on different techniques to get him to relax."