Newtown Opening Innovative Elementary School After Mass Shooting

The new school was built after consultation with community members, security experts, first responders, teachers and parents.

Newtown, Connecticut will welcome the public into its new Sandy Hook Elementary School four years after a mass shooting in the town shook the country.

The building layout bears no resemblance to the old school where the tragedy took place, which was torn down in 2013. A lawsuit filed by two of the victims’ families argues security at the old Sandy Hook was inadequate, particularly in classrooms.

Community members and the media will be allowed to tour the 86,000 square-foot building Aug. 5, reports New York’s CBS Local. Classes begin on Aug. 29.

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Many security features of the new building are confidential, although some information has been released. A guard will be posted at a gate at the entrance of the parking lot to monitor visitors. There is also a buzzer system installed in the front entrance that requires visitors to pass through two sets of doors.

All classroom doors are 350 pound stainless steel, painted to look like wood, and automatically lock from the outside. All windows are bulletproof.

Aside from security features, the building also has digital whiteboards in classrooms and offers students multiple playgrounds, treehouses and the latest computer equipment.

“The space is beautiful. The children are very excited for their new school,” Sandy Hook Principal Kathy Gombos told the Los Angeles Times. “The adult reactions are a little bit less because they have a sense of why we are here. You can’t stand in this space without thinking about the 26 people who lost their lives.”

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A state grant paid for the $50 million project, and the building’s features were carefully decided on by a committee of parents, teachers, administrators, security experts and first responders. Architects from Svigals + Partners and the Consigli Construction Company completed the building in 2015.

The building sits on a separate piece of land from the original school so that the site of the shooting is now a grassy area in the middle of the parking lot. District officials are also planning to place a memorial for the victims somewhere on campus.

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