The name Sandy Hook Elementary School is one that will conjure up images of horror for most Americans—but officials want it to be a place of hope and happiness. The new school in Newtown, Connecticut, is ready for students, almost four years after 20 students and six educators were massacred at its now-demolished predecessor, which stood at the same site, reports the New York Times. "Despite its birth from a horrible tragedy, Sandy Hook School will be a place full of laughter, of love and learning," Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra told reporters given a tour of the new school. Nearly 400 students have enrolled at the school, which will teach students from preschool through fourth grade when it opens at the end of next month, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Around 60% of staff at the new school worked at the old Sandy Hook. The only students at the new school who were in the old building during the massacre will be in fourth grade, and officials say none of them witnessed the shootings. The new school was designed to have a calming atmosphere, though security was also a major concern, the Times notes. There is no official memorial—a public one will be built in the town instead—but a grassy mound at the spot where the students and teachers were killed is considered sacred ground, reports People. Officials say the new school will be an "unbelievable learning space," though they of course wish that they had never had to build it. "Let me state unequivocally that we would trade in a minute this beautiful new school for the more familiar and ancient Sandy Hook school, built in the '50s, if we could just change the past," Llodra said, per the AP.