The public got a look at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. Built on the site of the old school, the one where 20 students and six educators were killed by Adam Lanza before he took his own life, they saw a new building that was designed to be attractive, friendly to the environment, a place conducive to learning.

And the most important thing?

A place that is safe.

The new $50 million, 86,000-square-foot school was built on the same property but not in the old footprint, and is scheduled to open next month and local officials are hopeful that allowing the public to see the new school will give students a “quiet, respectful and appropriate opening as teachers and students return to the new school year,” Superintendent Joseph Erardi told the Hartford Courant and the Associated Press. The school, built with funds from a state grant, has features in place, including impact-resistant windows and state-of-the-art monitors. As for the ground floor, it will be elevated, which will make it harder for anyone to see inside the classrooms from the outside. It’s also been landscaped to ensure that if you are approaching the school, you’re visible to those that are inside and can enter by way of one of three pedestrian bridges and the outside has been changed to invoke nature, with tree houses and courtyards.

The driveway and parking lots? They’ve been changed as well, done so to minimize the emotional impact on teachers and students that will be seeing the property for the first time since the shooting in December 2012.

In a statement to the media, First Selectman Pat Llodra said, “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.”

Since the shooting, Sandy Hook students have been attending school in neighboring Monroe, which renovated a previously closed elementary school for the Newtown children after the shooting. The new school will serve students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

As for the student population, there will be about 390 students enrolled this fall and 70 of those, all now fourth-graders, were students at the old school when the shooting occurred, Erardi said. About 35 of them were in the building at the time, he said, attending the morning kindergarten session.

Fortunately, None of them witnessed the shootings, which were heard throughout the school, prompting students to hide where they could in their classrooms until the building was cleared by police. The shooting occurred before the afternoon kindergarten session. Erardi also said that because of retirements and transfers, about 60 percent of the staff members from
the original Sandy Hook are still with the school and the school district will provide those students and staff with special resources to help cope with the return and added that a three-year, $7.1 million grant to fund added mental health professionals has expired. But grants from charities will cover those costs.

As for a memorial to those 20 students and six educators that died that day, there will not not have a prominent memorial to the Sandy Hook victims and Erardi declined to say whether they will be remembered in some other way. He told the Courant “I’m going to pass on answering that, because it involves the conversations I’ve had with the impacted families and those will always remain confidential.” Llodra said the town is still deciding on a permanent memorial. “That will not be on this site, there is nothing subtle that you missed,” Llodra said.

While most of America’s school children are dreading the start of school, there are some that are excited to see their friends and new teachers, 20 young souls will never get to have that experience again. They will never have the chance to have recess, swap lunches, play, learn, laugh and exchange Christmas or Valentines Day cards. They are gone, wiped off the planet by a madman that decided to promote his own agenda. I wouldn’t blame anyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School if Adam Lanza’s name was never uttered again. He doesn’t deserve it. He deserves to be scorned forever. Adam Lanza could have surrendered and at the very least, stand trial for his actions. He chose the coward’s way out.

August 29th falls on a Monday, a week before Labor Day. While students prepare for that day to start the learning process all over and teachers and staff prepare for a year of learning, laughter and fun, let’s not forget the ones that died, the ones that were minding their own business, getting ready to learn while most of America was starting their school day in the Eastern and Central time zones.

In one classroom, a refrigerator magnet reads “We are Newtown, we choose love.”

Adam Lanza though he destroyed Sandy Hook. In the end, Adam Lanza failed and did so miserably. The remaining students, faculty, staff, nation and community rallied around their school.

They chose to rise from the ashes and rebuild.

They chose to be butterflies.