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New school, new routines: what awaits Sandy Hook students Thursday

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Sandy Hook teachers decided “the familiar surroundings would be more a comfort than an emotional trigger,” says Eric Excell-Bailey, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut.

Children may be apprehensive about starting back, especially at a new school, but “continuity is very important,” says Julian Ford, a psychiatry professor at the University of Connecticut who has been advising pediatricians and mental-health providers in the Newtown area. “Kids pick up on very small details. They can be very reassuring without anyone having to say a lot at all,” he says.

On Wednesday, families coming to tour the building during an open house were welcomed with signs along the road offering such messages as, “Welcome. You are in our prayers.”

In the building, students are also being welcomed with painted handprints from Connecticut schoolchildren and snowflakes made by students from around the country, Mr. Excell-Bailey says.

“We want to get back to teaching and learning,” said Newtown superintendent Janet Robinson. “We will obviously take time out from the academics for any conversations that need to take place, and there will be a lot of support there.”

Grief counselors and police are on hand to reassure both staff and students.

A parent or guardian is also welcome to stay with or nearby a child on the first days if needed, said interim principal Donna Page in a note on the school district’s website.

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