Skip to main content

Newtown students start first new school year after shooting

By Pamela Brown, CNN
August 27, 2013 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Students in Newtown, Connecticut, return to school amid heightened security
  • "This will be our first time back to school without Daniel," say parents of slain student
  • School board says it is bringing in more guards, better locks on doors
  • "Parents will definitely see armed security at each school," says education board chair

Newtown, Connecticut (CNN) -- The return to school after the summer break is an annual milestone in every child's life. But as the school buses pulled up to take more than 5,000 children back to class in Newtown, Connecticut, Tuesday, it was far from an ordinary day.

The returning students were greeted not only by their teachers but also the presence of more armed guards -- and with them a solemn reminder of the tragedy that struck their town last year.

Mark and Jackie Barden are among those for whom the back-to-school ritual will be hardest.

While their children Natalie, 11, and James, 13, are returning to class as they have each year, their youngest child, 7-year-old Daniel, is not.

School safety standards since Newtown

He was one of 20 young children killed during the horrific shooting spree inside Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. Six teachers were also killed by Adam Lanza, 20, who then took his own life.

"This will be our first time back to school without Daniel," said his father, Mark.

The family's pain is still raw -- and it's hard not to imagine how it would have been to see their boy going off to second grade. "It's still day to day, and we have better days than others," his mother said.

Sandy Hook Elementary is being torn down and its students will head Tuesday to Chalk Hill Elementary instead, the site to which they moved when classes resumed in January.

The heightened security they will find there will be replicated in schools across the district.

Opinion: Does your child's school have a security plan?

Armed security

The school board is doing everything it can to put families at ease in the wake of last year's shooting and the recent gun scare in Georgia.

Steps taken include better locks on doors, real-time monitoring systems and more armed guards at every school.

"It's not a normal back-to-school but we're trying to put the resources in place to make it as normal as possible," said Debbie Leidlein, who chairs the education board.

"Parents will definitely see armed security at each school and there will be additional guards at multiple schools."

The number of guards present will depend on the size of the school and number of students, she added.

More safety measures are expected to be put in place in Newtown schools over the course of the school year, but officials did not go into detail.

It's not just Newtown where the security of children and their educators is at the forefront of people's minds.

School districts across the country are adding more security guards, particularly to their elementary schools.

At least three states have also passed laws recently allowing teachers to be able to carry handguns on campus.

For the Bardens, the daily struggle to carry on family life without Daniel continues.

What they'd like to see are positive changes in the way people act, such as showing more kindness to others, to try to prevent others suffering a similar loss.

"We have to try to do the good work that he was supposed to do here," said Mark. "We're gonna try our best to do it for him."

Newtown residents find their voice

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2030 GMT (0430 HKT)
Though Congress hasn't passed any gun reform laws in the two years since the Sandy Hook massacre, there's one senator who's made it his mission to push for changes.
November 23, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Adam Lanza was an isolated young man with deteriorating mental health and a fascination for mass violence, according to a report released by a Connecticut state agency.
December 14, 2013 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.
June 8, 2013 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
Fifty miles from Newtown, workers hate that their products fall into the wrong hand. But the Second Amendment is sacred here.
Rabbi Shaul Praver says people in Newtown have grown weary of syrupy condolences.
June 8, 2013 -- Updated 1118 GMT (1918 HKT)
Congress may have defeated tighter gun laws, but states have been passing bills of their own in the wake of Newtown
Details continue to emerge about what precisely happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here is a timeline of events that compiles the latest reporting.
An interactive tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
May 25, 2013 -- Updated 0512 GMT (1312 HKT)
The public school district will receive $1.3 million to help the community recover from the , U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced.
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Police released new documents related to the shootings last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, but a motive for the attack by the troubled young man remained elusive.
January 15, 2013 -- Updated 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)
His parents remember Dylan Hockley as such a happy child.
December 19, 2012 -- Updated 1517 GMT (2317 HKT)
Amid the chaos that first-responder Ray Corbo witnessed on Friday, there is one image that he will never forget.
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
In many ways, Josh Stepakoff's childhood came to an abrupt halt at 10:49 a.m. on August 10, 1999.
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
When Lauren Rousseau's boyfriend wakes up, he can smell her perfume.
December 18, 2012 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
Placing yourself in the path of flying bullets to protect innocents. It's a job description fitting for a soldier or police officer, but not for a school teacher.
ADVERTISEMENT