A woman cries as she pays tribute to the victims of an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Saturday.
(Photo: Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images)
Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Pupils from Sandy Hook Elementary School will return to classes at a former school building about 15 minutes away and may never go back to the school where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators.
Work crews descended on the former Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe on Sunday morning to make it ready for pupils by Wednesday, although no date has been set for the children to resume classes, Monroe Police Lt. Brian McCauley said.
The two-story building sits along a winding, wooded road next to a new middle school and an elementary school.
Police will be stationed at Chalk Hill when it reopens, and news media will be barred except for a single camera crew that will be allowed to shoot video but will be asked not to conduct interviews, McCauley said.
"We don't want to disrupt the students any more than they have been," he said.
Officials from Newtown and Monroe reached an agreement Sunday morning to use Chalk Hill for an indefinite period.
The building is "in very good condition" and will handle the entire Sandy Hill program, Newtown officials said in a statement on the town's website.
James Agostine, the schools superintendent in Monroe, issued a statement saying: "It is important that the Sandy Hook students get back to school quickly in an environment that is familiar and safe."
At a news conference Sunday, Newtown Police Lt. George Sinko said he doubted pupils would attend Sandy Hook again.
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About 450 pupils from kindergarten through fourth grade attended Sandy Hook before the shooting Friday. The school building remains a crime scene under investigation.
Newtown's six other public schools, with about 4,700 students, are scheduled to reopen Tuesday. Newtown teachers and administrators will spend today in meetings.
Since students vacated Chalk Hill in 2011, the building has housed some town offices and a day care center while town officials debated a long-term plan.
Monroe police were bombarded with phone calls Sunday from people offering to help fix up Chalk Hill, McCauley said. "We're a small community. We help each other," he said.
Agostine urged patience in his statement: "We recognize that everyone would like to lend a helping hand, but we have been asked to hold back until the Newtown staff is settled in and they can direct our efforts."