MONROE, Conn. — On a tour Wednesday of his daughter's new school, Vinny Alvarez took a moment to thank her third-grade teacher, who protected the class from a rampaging gunman by locking her classroom door and keeping the children in a corner.
Alvarez was one of many Sandy Hook Elementary School parents expressing gratitude to the teachers during an open house at their school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where their children are resuming classes today for the first time since the Dec. 14 shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead.
Alvarez said each student received a gift box with a toy inside and he expressed thanks to the teacher, Courtney Martin, who kept her door locked until it was safe to leave the building.
"Everybody there thanked her in their own way," he said.
Newtown superintendent of schools Janet Robinson announced that the Sandy Hook staff decided that the students' new school, the former Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe, would be renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"That's who they are. They're the Sandy Hook family," Robinson said after a news conference at a park in Monroe a few miles from the school. She added that renaming the Chalk Hill school will allow staff and students to keep "their identity and a comfort level."
The school where the shootings occurred remains closed and guarded by police. Newtown officials haven't decided yet on the building's future.
Robinson said Chalk Hill School has been transformed into a "cheerful" place for the students to resume normal school routines. She said mental health counselors continue to be available for anyone who needs them.
Several signs welcoming the Sandy Hook students to their new school were posted along the road leading to the school. One said "Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary Kids," while a similar sign added "You are in our prayers."