The newly-built Sandy Hook Elementary School was opened today to media and Newtown, Connecticut, residents, nearly four years after a gunman opened fire in the building, killing 20 first-graders and six adults in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
The 86,000-square-foot school is scheduled to open next month, but school officials held a public open house for media Friday morning and are inviting local residents to visit the school later in the day, the Associated Press reports.
The original school was torn down in 2013, nearly a year after the December 2012 massacre.
The town received a $50 million grant from the state to build the new structure. The school was built on the same site as the original school, but is located further back on the property. The footprint of the old building remains in the parking lot and other areas, the AP reports.
The deadly shooting took place the morning of December 12, 2012. It ended when the gunman turned his weapon on himself.
“Our goal was to create a place of community and learning, a place that would honor those we lost and allow those who were left behind the chance to move forward,” First Selectman Patricia Llodra said in a statement, according to The Hartford Courant.
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Llodra spoke to media at the school at 10 a.m., while residents will be allowed to visit from 5 to 8 p.m., the Courant reports.
“The transition to the new school needs to be as seamless as possible for the children,” Superintendent Joseph Erardi said in a statement, according to the Courant. “That is why we are setting up this day; and therefore, asking everyone to give us the space we need to allow high quality teaching and learning when we return for our first day of school.”
Erardi uploaded a photo of the new school to Twitter, inviting Newtown residents to tour the school on Friday.
The school has impact-resistant windows, video monitoring and an elevated ground floor, the AP reports. Nearly 400 students are scheduled to enroll in the school this fall – 70 of the students, now fourth-graders, attended the school at the time of the shooting, the superintendent said, according to the AP.
Since the shooting, Sandy Hook students have been attending a school in Monroe, less than 10 miles from Newtown.