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Connecticut School Shooting Update: Sandy Hook Elementary students, teachers head back to school

Flowers and stuffed animals in a makeshift memorial for school shooting victims encircle the flagpole at the town center in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 15, 2012. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

(CBS/AP) NEWTOWN, Conn. - Nearly three weeks after the tragic shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 students and six educators dead, the survivors are heading back to class.

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Classes are starting Thursday at a repurposed school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where the students' desks have been taken along with backpacks and other belongings that were left behind in the chaos following the shooting on Dec. 14. Families have been coming in to see the new school, and an open house is scheduled for Wednesday.

"I'm nervous about it," David Connors, the father of 8-year-old triplets who escaped the rampage at the Newton school, told The Associated Press. "It's unchartered waters for us. I know it's going to be difficult."

But Connors says he felt reassured after recently visiting the new setup at the former Chalk Hill school in Monroe. He said his children were excited to see their backpacks and coats, and that the family was greeted by a police officer at the door and grief counselors in the hallways.

Teachers will try to make it as normal a school day as possible for the children, schools Superintendent Janet Robinson said.

"We want to get back to teaching and learning," she said. "We will obviously take time out from the academics for any conversations that need to take place, and there will be a lot of support there. All in all, we want the kids to reconnect with their friends and classroom teachers, and I think that's going to be the healthiest thing."

Connors said his children are excited to go back to school but predicted they might be nervous as the first day approaches. He hopes the grief counseling services continue, he said.

"It's going to be a long road back," Connors said. "Back to what I guess is the biggest question. Everyone keeps throwing that word around the new normal. What does the new normal look like? I think everybody kind of has to define that for themselves."

Complete coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Crimesider