- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 30, 2016

The newly built Sandy Hook Elementary School opened its doors to the public for the first time Friday, three-and-a-half years after a former student massacred 20 child and six adults there before taking his own life during one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

The $50-million, 86,000-square foot structure was constructed not far from where 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree in December 2012 after killing his mother inside their nearby Newtown, Connecticut home. The original building, constructed more than a half-century earlier, was bulldozed in 2013 after residents voted to raze the structure and build a new school in its place.

“My direction was that this building needed and must feel like a warm and nurturing elementary school,” Joseph Erardi, superintendent of schools, told CNN. “This school is an enormous step forward for the process of healing in Newtown.”

“From the very first day, we were aware of just how important it was to build the best possible building for the students and the Newtown community. Its powerful purpose was never lost on us,” Matthew Consigli, president of Consigli Construction Co., Inc., told a local Fox affiliate. “This has truly been an honor for us to be a partner in this special project.”

According to the Associated Press, visitors attempting to enter the new Sandy Hook must first pass through a driveway gate, cross a moat-like “raingarden” and check-in with two police officers, all while being monitored by video cameras. All of the building’s doors and windows are bulletproof, and security cameras are attached throughout its ceilings.

The school will officially begin its academic year next month when classes start up for around 390 students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, the superintendent said. Around 70 of those students were in kindergarten when the massacre unfolded nearly four years ago, but none witnessed their classmates being killed first hand, CNN reported.

Allowing the public and press to see the new school ahead of classes was meant to ensure a “quiet, respectful, and appropriate opening” on August 29, Mr. Erardi added.

“There have been some tears, but I think after they spend about an hour or so here, they feel like it’s going to be an unbelievable learning space for kids,” Sandy Hook principal Kathy Gombos told the AP during Friday’s event. Her predecessor, Dawn Hochsprung, was among the five adults who lost their lives as a result of the Dec. 2012 shooting.

“[L]et me state unequivocally that we would trade in a minute this beautiful new school for the more familiar and ancient Sandy Hook school, built in the ‘50s, if we could just change the past,” added Pat Llodra, the town’s first selectman.

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