In this Dec. 17, 2012 file photo, stuffed animals and a sign calling for prayer sit at the base of a tree near the Newtown VIllage Cemetery in Newtown, Conn., after 26 people were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The referendum on whether to accept $50 million in state grant money to build a new Sandy Hook Elementary School was passed Saturday.
With more than 5,000 votes cast, 4,504 Newtown residents voted yes to the referendum, while 558 voted no. Voter turnout was higher than expected, Newtown Board of Education chair Debbie Leidlein told NBC Connecticut.
Leidlein said that the next step is to speak to architects. The hope is construction will be completed by late 2015 or early 2016.
The new school will be built on the same plot of land as the old one where gunman Adam Lanza killed 26 people last December, including 20 children, then killed himself. Additional land will also be purchased in order to create a new entrance, NBC Connecticut has learned.
“Let's do it. Let's do it right,” said Jim Chevalier, 49, a firefighter and contractor with two young children, before the vote.
That was what supporters were urging voters Saturday, waving “Vote Yes” signs on the sidewalks near Newtown Middle School, where the referendum was being held.
“It's kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me,” said Jackie Chard, 54, who has deep ties to the Sandy Hook Elementary community, as a former teacher's aide there and current nanny to some of its students.
“Everybody wants to move forward,” she said, calling the grant “a wonderful gift.” Students from Sandy Hook Elementary are currently attending classes in a repurposed school building in neighboring Monroe while plans are made for their school's future.
Voter Sue Roman, emotional when asked what her ideal solution would be, said: “I'd like to bring our kids back to Newtown.”
Dianne Orlando, who was planning to vote yes Saturday, said it was too late to think in terms of a perfect solution.
“I'm past the ideal,” she said. The ideal, she said, would have been if “December 14 had never happened.”