■ Newtown, Conn., public schools except for Sandy Hook reopen,
NEWTOWN, CONN. — With security stepped up and families still on edge in Newtown, students began returning to school Tuesday for the first time since last week’s massacre, bringing a return of familiar routines, at least, for some, to a griefstricken town as it buries 20 of its children.
A 6-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl were laid to rest Tuesday, the latest in a long, almost unbearable procession of funerals. A total of 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history.
Buses ferrying students to schools were festooned with green-and-white ribbons, the colors of Sandy Hook, as classes resumed for all Newtown schools except the stricken elementary school.
The district has made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to Chalk Hill, a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Sandy Hook desks that will fit the small students were being taken there, and tradesmen were donating their services to get the school ready.
With Sandy Hook Elementary still designated a crime scene, state police Lt. Paul Vance said it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district.
At Newtown High School, students in sweat shirts and jackets, many wearing headphones, betrayed mixed emotions. Some waved at or snapped photos of the assembled media horde, and others appeared shaken.
“There’s going to be no joy in school,” said 17-year-old senior P.J. Hickey. “It really doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore.”
At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in New- town, back-to-back funerals were held for first-graders James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos, the first of eight to be held in the coming days at the church.
As mourners gathered outside, a motorcade led by police motorcycles arrived for the funeral of little James, who especially loved recess and math, and whose family described as a “numbers guy” who couldn’t wait until he was old enough to order a footlong Subway sandwich.
The service had not yet concluded when mourners began arriving for the funeral of Jessica, who loved horses and was counting the years until she turned 10, when her family had promised her a horse of her own. For Christmas, she had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
“We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are,” her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos, said in a statement.
Traffic in front of the church slowed to a crawl as police directed vehicles into the church parking lot. At one point a school bus carrying elementary students became stuck in traffic. The children pressed their faces into the windows, sadly watching as mourners assembled at the church.
At the high school, students didn’t expect to get much work done Tuesday and spent much of the day talking about the terrible events of last week carried out by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
“We’re going to be able to comfort each other and try and help each other get through this because that’s the only way we’re going to do it. Nobody can do this alone,” Hickey said.
Some parents kept their children at home Tuesday, as police and school officials planned how and where to increase security.
A student waves as her bus pulls into Hawley School Tuesday in Newtown, Conn. Classes resumed at all public schools except for Sandy Hook Elementary.
A Newtown Middle School faculty member greets students Tuesday. Schools reopened in Newtown, Conn., for the first time since the tragedy.