Published on NewsOK Modified: December 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm •  Published: December 25, 2012

Long before this month's tragedy, discussion abounded in Newtown about whether to close one elementary school. Since 2006, kindergarten through fourth grade has seen a decline of 486 students in the district — approximately the size of one of Newtown's four elementary schools.

A decision had not been made, though in October school board President Debbie Leidlein proposed hiring a consultant to study the district's options — school closure, redistricting or no change at all.

If Sandy Hook, opened in 1956, were to remain permanently closed, school and city officials said, the student body could easily be absorbed into the district's remaining elementary schools.

The students of Sandy Hook Elementary will tentatively return to classes Jan. 3 at Chalk Hill School, a vacant middle school about seven miles away in Monroe, Conn. Plumbers, painters, teachers and parents are working through the holiday season to ensure the school resembles Sandy Hook. Walls will be painted the same colors; even old pictures and posters will be transferred from the old school.

Wilford, the Sandy Hook parent, was among many who suggested that in the aftermath of the tragedy, the students and teachers need to stay together — whether or not the existing elementary schools could take in Sandy Hook's students.

"We'd like a new school so our kids can stay together," she said.

At Columbine High, an outpouring of donations after the 1999 shooting financed much of the school's $2.6 million renovation. Some have suggested donations to Newtown could similarly finance building a new school and a memorial on the old site.

On Saturday, officials with United Way of Western Connecticut announced just one of the funds established to help the community had so far received $2.8 million in donations.

Julian Revie, who lives in Canada but often visits Sandy Hook, said the tragedy has reminded many people in the community of the Sept. 11 attacks, and she pointed to the sites where the North and South towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

"The footprint of those towers is being left alone, and that site has been treated in a very respectful way," he said.

He also noted Newtown's proximity to New York City and the fact that many in the Newtown area were likely affected by the 2001 attacks.

"I actually sat beside a fellow who lost his girlfriend on 9/11 during a prayer service" on the night of the Newtown shooting, Revie said. "Here we are, an hour from New York City. . . . For a lot of people, it certainly reminds them of what happened then."

Marc Moorash had similar sentiments about the future of the school and the memory of Sept. 11. Though he didn't feel uneasy about eventually sending his own 1-year-old child to the school, he said many likely would, especially those directly affected by the tragedy.

"They'll tear it down and build something else. They have to," Moorash said. "How do you send anybody into those two rooms?"