NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — The third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre will be the first to fall on a school day — one that Newtown officials will endeavor to make as normal as possible for many students.
The principals at the high school and middle school will note the day’s significance in remarks over public address systems before the daily moments of silence, but staff at lower-grade schools only will offer parents, if requested, talking points on how to discuss the shootings with their children. At the Sandy Hook school, the superintendent says, it will be a “full day of school, quality teaching and quality learning.”
Despite efforts to embrace normalcy, students and the town are a long way from recovering from that the murders of 20 first-grade children and six educators.
“The expectation that it becomes easier is not realistic,” said First Selectwoman Pat Llodra, the town’s top elected official. “This is a reality that we’re still struggling with, and a struggle to develop a sense of positivity about the future. It takes time for a community to recover.”
Demand for mental health in the schools remains high. Last month, a foundation run by the PTA at Sandy Hook Elementary School awarded the school district a two-year, $500,000 grant to continue in-school mental health programs for students who were in Sandy Hook School the day of the shooting and those who lost brothers or sisters that day.
“Newtown needs only Newtown on this day,” said Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi, who became superintendent last year. “There are supports that we have put together. There is a peace that we put together for that day.”
The superintendent is urging school officials nationwide to review their safety plans, and people to remember Newtown is still healing.
The gunman killed his mother inside their Newtown home and later shot his way into the school where he carried out the rampage before killing himself.
The school was demolished, and a new Sandy Hook school is set to open in the fall of 2016 at the same site. In the meantime, Sandy Hook students are taking classes in a building in the neighboring town of Monroe.
Town officials again have not organized any public remembrances because they want the anniversary to be low-key, a tack being taken by the schools.
The biggest event will be the annual interfaith community service at the Trinity Episcopal Church on Monday evening. It will include prayers, music and time for lighting candles, but not a lot of speeches, said the Rev. Matthew Crebbin, pastor of Newtown Congregational Church and coordinator of the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association.
“It’s more a day of reading the sacred text, prayers. People can light candles,” Crebbin said. “We know that anniversaries can be very challenging times for people. For some it has waned, but for others the anniversary is a retraumatizing time.”