January 3rd, 2013
09:57 AM ET

Sandy Hook students return to class for first time since Newtown shooting

By Olivia Smith and David Ariosto, CNN

(CNN) - For the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Christine Wilford plans do something remarkable on Thursday that once was routine: drop her child off at school.

The last time her 7-year-old son, Richie, was in class was on December 14, when a gunman smashed his way into his school in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 26 children and adults.

As shots rang out, Richie's teacher locked the door and huddled her students into the corner as the shooter roamed the hallways, wielding an AR-15 assault rifle and firing.

When it appeared safe, the children were then hurried away to a nearby fire station, where teary parents either reunited with their sons and daughters or learned that they had been killed.

Nearly a month later, Wilford said her son still has trouble sleeping and is often scared by loud noises.

Newtown chooses faith, charity, hope

But on Thursday, he will join hundreds of other Newtown students returning to class for the first time since the tragedy.

"We think it's good he's going back," Wilford said. "If I leave my child anywhere, I'm leaving a piece of my heart, so it's difficult to leave him."

But Richie apparently isn't afraid and says he's looking forward to seeing his friends, she said.

They won't be attending Sandy Hook Elementary, which police say remains part of an ongoing investigation into Adam Lanza, the gunman who also killed his mother before opening fire at the school.

Instead, Richie and his classmates are expected to travel to Chalk Hill Middle School in the nearby town of Monroe, where a green-and-white banner greeting the children hangs on a fence.

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