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Newtown teachers traumatized by shooting

Updated 10:21 pm, Thursday, December 20, 2012

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When classes resume Chalk Hill School in Monroe, the temporary home for the Sandy Hook Elementary students, will open for classes on Jan. 3. Teachers and staff will report to Chalk Hill on Jan. 2. The rest of the Newtown School district will resume classes on Jan. 2 after the holiday break.
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NEWTOWN -- Teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary School and elsewhere in the district are grappling with emotional trauma in the wake of last week's mass shooting, the town's superintendent said Thursday.

"We are educators. We are not accustomed to doing combat," Newtown Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson said, "and we want to help people through it the best we can. This is more than grieving; this is post-traumatic stress. And it's not going to be over tomorrow."

The school district is providing counseling through Newtown Youth and Family Services and its Sandy Hook office will be open through the weekend and Christmas week. Kids In Crisis counselors also are available at the family services' office, including on Christmas Day.

Newtown Education Federation President Tom Kuroski said he is in awe of district teachers, and of how they have responded to "unspeakable circumstances."

On Thursday, Kuroski toured Newtown schools. Three days earlier, he addressed the district's more than 600 employees, including Sandy Hook faculty, and asked them to hold hands and feel their strength and unity.

"I want them to know how inspiring they are to all of us," Kuroski said.

Meanwhile, the father of Lauren Rousseau, a permanent substitute teacher killed in the Dec. 14 shootings, questioned whether his daughter was unable to lock her classroom door because she had not been given a key.

Gilles Rousseau said he raised the question after a contact with the school district, whom he did not identify, told him that Lauren Rousseau would not have had a key to lock the first-grade room where she was teaching Friday. As a permanent substitute, she was assigned to different classes from day to day.

Gunman Adam Lanza had shot his way into the school, shattering the front entrance door, killed Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, then made his way down a hallway, law enforcement sources said.

According to published reports, the gunman went past the first classroom, whose door was closed, and entered the room where Rousseau was teaching, killing her and 14 of her students.

He then went into a classroom of first-graders taught by Vicki Soto, killing Soto and six of her students, according to published accounts.

Shortly later, police rushed into the school and Lanza fatally shot himself.

It's unclear to what extent a locked door would have deterred Lanza. The high-powered, semiautomatic rifle he used would have been capable of blasting it open.

Furthermore, the proximity of Rousseau's first-grade classroom to the main entrance suggests that she -- as apparently was the case with Soto -- would have had little time to secure the room.

State Police and other investigators have yet to release their findings as they piece together the shooting spree.

Robinson, who was interviewed for this story prior to Gilles Rousseau's remarks, could not be reached again for comment. Gilles Rousseau acknowledged the speculative nature of his concerns.

"I'm not blaming anyone,'' he said.

Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at The News-Times who is the mother of Lauren Rousseau, said she is not focusing on the matter.

"What's done is done,'' she said. "And I have this hole in my heart.''