NICKEL MINES, Pa. (AP) — Amish children carrying lunch pails arrived at a new one-room schoolhouse yesterday morning, marking a fresh beginning for students who survived the shooting that killed five classmates last fall.
The New Hope Amish School sits a few hundred yards from the spot where the killings took place. Built by the entire community, the school is protected by more sophisticated locks on its doors and is reachable only by a private drive.
“For an Amish one-room schoolhouse, this one is spectacular,” said Bart Township zoning officer John Coldiron.
It replaces the West Nickel Mines Amish School, which was torn down Oct. 12. Ten days earlier, milk truck driver Charles Carl Roberts IV shot 10 girls inside the school and then committed suicide as police closed in.
Retired teacher Dan Baughman said students were excited about the new school. They had been attending class in a garage-type building since the shooting.
“They’re elated that they have a new school, but nevertheless it’s going to bring back forcefully that day six months ago,” said Mr. Baughman, 81, who has lived in the community since the 1960s.
The building does not have electricity or a phone, but it is bright inside because of skylights and windows, Mr. Coldiron said. He said it sits behind a row of non-Amish homes, providing a way to quickly summon help in an emergency. The phone is notable because during the rampage, a teacher had to run to a neighboring farm to call 911.
At the front of the building is a steel door that locks from the inside.
A state police vehicle was parked at the end of the driveway yesterday, and “No Trespassing” signs had been posted along the main road.
The new school’s construction costs were funded in part with a portion of more than $4 million in donations to the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee, the primary organization collecting donations on behalf of the victims.
Donations, some sent directly to the school board, also have helped provide care for the five wounded girls who survived.
Four of the five have returned to school. The fifth, a 6-year-old, needs a feeding tube and is not able to communicate, said Mike Hart of the Bart Township Fire Department, who is also a committee member.
Roberts’ widow, Marie, and their three children have moved from their home in the village of Georgetown, about a mile from the shooting, to another community within Lancaster County, Mr. Hart said.
Roberts, apparently tormented by an unconfirmed memory of having molested relatives 20 years earlier and by the 1997 death of his infant daughter, fatally shot himself as police reached the school.