Welcome home: Students return to Sandy Hook this fall
Tina Marie Craven photos
As students prepare their backpacks for the new school year, the Sandy Hook community is excited to be starting out the year at the newly finished Sandy Hook School.
The new Sandy Hook School will welcome students back to Newtown on Aug. 29. The school will house 464 students in kindergarten through fourth grade and 42 pre-k students at their new facility on Dickinson Drive.
“Our role now, as adults and leader, is to bring this new, beautiful place into its rightful status as the SHS of the present and the future,” Newtown’s First Selectman Patricia Llodra said. “Despite its birth from a horrible tragedy, SHS will be a place full of laughter, love, and learning.”
On Dec. 14, 2012 Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The old school was torn down after the shooting and the students were relocated to Monroe’s Chalk Hill School while the new $50-million state-funded school was built.
"But, let 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," Llodra said.
The new 88,000-square-foot building, which was built by Consigli Construction Co., Inc. and designed by Svigals + Partners Architects, took 15 months to complete. The building was designed with the community and safety in mind. To gain access to the school, a person must go through multiple checkpoints and the building features impact-resistant windows.
“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,” said Matthew Consigli, president of Consigli Construction Co., Inc. “This has truly been an honor for us to be a partner in this special project.”
The school itself was designed to connect the students with nature and incorporate the natural environment of Sandy Hook into the building. The school features tree and duck motifs and a rain garden, as well as a three courtyards that will allow teachers to connect their lessons to nature.
The school is divided into two wings, one for the younger students and one for the older students, both wings have their own playgrounds for the children. Each wing also has a “treehouse” at the end of the hallway that looks out into the stretch of trees behind the school.
“As architects, we aspire to opportunities like this: to be involved in the design of a building like the Sandy Hook School, a meaningful and symbolic building that truly serves a community on so many levels, today and for generations to come,” Jay Brotman, managing partner at Svigals + Partners Architects, said. “A building that has become a national and even global emblem of what communities can achieve when working together for a common cause.”
The community itself was incorporated into the design. The architects and engineers held a series of seven workshops and Kids Build programs to collect the community’s input on the design. The Kids Build program resulted in taking student art and turning it into wood carvings that can be seen on the exterior of the building.
“Our goal was to create a place of community and learning, a place that would honor those we lost and allow those who were left behind the chance to move forward,” Llodra said.
While there isn’t a memorial for the victims of the shooting at the new school, Llodra said the town is looking into finding a home for a permanent memorial.
Superintendent Joseph Erardi asked the press to respect the community’s privacy once classes begin.
“Sandy Hook will have a quiet opening in September,” he said. “We’re asking everyone to give us the space we need to focus entirely on teaching and learning when we return for our first day of school.”
When Llodra was asked about her expectations for the school’s opening, she said,
“We’re expecting the kids to be excited and happy to be home.”