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As Sandy Hook Students Prepare To Return To School, They Also Cope With Anxiety

New Sandy Hook Elementary

Chalk Hill School in Monroe, Conn., is the new Sandy Hook Elementary School for those who attended the school where 20 children were killed last month. (Credit: CBS 2)

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Tragedy In Newtown

MONROE, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Students who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown will soon return to classes at another school nearby, and many have been experiencing anxiety.

As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported, students and parents got an advance peek at their new home, Chalk Hill Middle School, at an open house on Wednesday. At their old school, gunman Adam Lanza opened fire on Dec. 14 and killed 20 children and six adults.

While it is impossible to imagine what the students saw and heard that day, psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere said going back to school is a key to recovering.

“Getting them back into the routine of going to school is zenith. This is what they need to do,” Gardere said, “because the more they stay away from that situation of school, the more the fear builds; the more the imagination becomes a negative.”

Their new school will have some familiar surroundings. It actually has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary, and is filled with some of the desks and school supplies from the old school.

“A lot of children have come in with their parents already. A lot of them were very excited about different aspects of the building that they didn’t have at the old building,” said Monroe Township Police Lt. Keith White at a news conference. “The gymnasium has been the biggest thrill, I think. As they come through, they light up to see such a big area now to have gym class and run around in.”

Gardere said every student will react differently, and some may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, along with flashbacks and nightmares.

With so much focus on the children, mental health experts say the adults — from the school staff to parents — need to make sure they also get the help they need.

“I would also caution them to take care of themselves,” Dr. Gardere said. “It’s like the old analogy, on the plane, it’s going down. You have to grab that mask; give yourself some oxygen so you can help the kids.”

Gardere said while it’s a long road ahead, with the right support, the Newtown community may emerge stronger than ever.

The students will be on their normal schedule Thursday, and their parents will be allowed to stay at the school as long as they like.

Do you have any ideas for coping with anxiety in returning to school? Please leave your comments below…