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NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — With security stepped up, students at six schools returned to class for the first time since Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Under tight and extra security, thousands of Newtown students returned to the schools serving a widespread area on Tuesday after classes were canceled district-wide on Monday.
But they did not at one public school, Head O’Meadow School, because a threat was called in early in the morning, so the principal called off classes before students showed up. The threat was unfounded, police said.
Some of the students now carry a heavy mental burden.
“My neighbor up the street, ere kid didn’t come back. It was definitely hard,” sophomore Mike Stierle told CBS 2′s John Slattery.
WCBS 880′s Paul Murnane On The Story
Students returning to Newtown High School wore green and white — the colors of Sandy Hook — and school buses were decorated with green and white ribbons to honor the victims.
Before returning to class, many students first stopped to bring flowers to a memorial for Sandy Hook victims that has been set up in front of Newtown High School.
“It’s so surreal, it feels like it didn’t happen here,” 15-year-old sophomore Tate Schwab said, adding that while he is glad to be back, there is a feeling of guilt among some of his friends. “They just don’t want to be back here. They feel it’s wrong to be at school now.”
As classes resumed, the district promised parents that their kids will be safe.
“Be assured that the safety of your children and our staff are our first priority,” Superintendent Janet Robinson said in an e-mail to parents. “Chief (Michael) Kehoe, along with his colleagues from the state police and surrounding communities, are implementing a security plan which will provide increased presence at all of our schools.”
Despite the measure, some parents were still shaken.
“I’ll always be worried, but now it’s very, very bad,” Rosemary Francisco said.
Even adults whose children attended Sandy Hook years ago said they have difficulty grasping the scope of the carnage.
“It’s hard to get your mind around it. Someone so young to leave us,” Henry Lopez Cepero said.
Another woman’s daughter went to school with the mother of 6-year-old Jessica Rekos, a little girl who was buried Tuesday.
“My daughters, the ones who just past by, went to school in Sandy Hook and we have a lot of good memories. I can’t talk, awful,” she said.
It’s a heavy burden for adults and children of all ages, and sharing in the grief are strangers who drove in to be here, like one woman from Vernon, N.J.
“I’m just in shock over this whole thing. This is a horrible, horrible tragedy, and deep in my head I just wanted to be here to support the town,” Catherine Henderson said.
Sandy Hook Elementary remains closed indefinitely. State Police Lt. Paul Vance said Monday that the school has been designated a crime scene and said it could be months before it is turned back over to the district.
The district is planning to send Sandy Hook students to Chalk Hill in neighboring Monroe.
Chalk Hill, a former middle school, has been closed since June of 2011 because of declining enrollment, but work is under way to get the facility ready.
There’s still no word on when classes will begin there, but officials said it could be within a matter of days.
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