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Sandy Hook Elementary Students Return To School For New Year In New Town

Students Starting First Full Year Of School Since Dec. 14 Shootings

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Tragedy In Newtown

MONROE, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Newtown students started a new school year Tuesday — with the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School still fresh on everyone’s mind.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, the students arrived at the new Sandy Hook Elementary in the neighboring town of Monroe under heavy security and therapy dogs, and no small amount of anxiety. The horrifying massacre in which 20 first-graders and six educators were killed last year remains fresh on their minds.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School students are being bussed to the neighboring town of Monroe, where a former middle school was renovated for them shortly after the shootings.

The 400 or so Sandy Hook students are starting their first full school year since the tragedy. Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother at their Newtown home and the 26 victims at the school before turning the gun on himself. The motive remains unclear.

Some of the parents said they found the first day a challenge.

“There are 20 kids who started school last year who are not with us for reasons that are not really explainable,” Monte Frank said.

“You’re standing in the driveway and standing at the bus stop, and you think about all the parents who aren’t doing it,” Erin Nikitchyuk added. “You know? It’s hard.”

The place where the attack happened – the old Sandy Hook Elementary School — is at the end of a blocked-off road in Newtown. It is visible only through glimpses behind late-summer foliage and chain link metal, awaiting demolition.

“Here in Sandy Hook, we’re trying to get back to normal, and many of us are finding out it’s impossible to do that,” Frank said.

It is most difficult for people who lost someone close that day.

“Vicki (Soto) would have been so excited to start the new school year. She loved this time of year, meeting her new little ones,” tweeted Donna Soto, the mother of the slain teacher.

Another still-grieving mother posted on Facebook.

“We muddle on. New backpacks and folders, new shoes and haircuts and a new resolve to never, ever stop loving our Benny as best we can,” wrote Francine Wheeler.

Erica Lafferty, the daughter of fallen principal Dawn Hochsprung, wrote simply: “Sandy Hook back to school today. Missing my mommy.”

Bear Nikitchyuk was a young survivor who spoke to reporters the day of the massacre. His mother said the first day was tough.

“He’s doing as well as can be expected. He had a good summer, said Erin Nikitchyuk. “He’s not all that excited to be going back to school, but I think in a couple of weeks, he’ll be happy to be there.”

Town voters will be asked in October to approve plans to demolish the school where the massacre occurred and build a new one on the same property.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)