MONROE, Conn. (AP) — 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 Thursday for the first time since the Dec. 14 shooting that left 20 students 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.
The gunman, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at the home they shared in Newtown before the school shootings, which ended when Lanza fatally shot himself as police arrived. Police haven't released any details about a motive.
Numerous police officers on Wednesday guarded the outside of the Monroe school, which is about 7 miles from the old school, and told reporters to stay away.
"I think right now it has to be the safest school in America," Monroe police Lt. Keith White said.
Teachers attended staff meetings at the new school on Wednesday morning and were visited by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before the open house, White said.
Robinson said Chalk Hill School has been transformed into a "cheerful" place for the surviving students to resume normal school routines. She said mental health counselors continue to be available for anyone who needs them.