By Richard Weizel
MILFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - The demolition of Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 young children and six adults were shot to death last December, will begin on Friday under a cloak of secrecy meant to discourage souvenir-hunters, town officials said.
The town has required the workers handling the tear down of the building to sign agreements banning them from discussing any aspect of the work as Newtown officials attempt to fade out of the media spotlight that hit the commuter suburb after the December 14 attack.
Town officials aim for completion of the nearly 60-year-old school's demolition by the one-year anniversary of the attack.
"We have people showing up here every day who want to see the school," said Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra. "We are not a tourist attraction or a large city. We are a small town of 28,000 that just wants to be left alone to heal."
The massacre by 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza, a former Sandy Hook student, was one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, and led to stricter gun laws in Connecticut, New York and other nearby states.
Town officials have barricaded the property around the school to keep members of the public and media away.
"We don't want parts of the building showing up as collector's items on eBay," Llodra said.
Full-time security guards will be at the site during demolition, and contractors have also signed confidentiality agreements.
Bestech, an Ellington, Connecticut, company that specializes in removing asbestos and other hazardous waste, is on the job and planning to start tearing down part of the school Friday and through the weekend, town officials said.
Abatement work to inspect for and remove any hazardous material was underway on Thursday, but major demolition, which could include removal of parts of the building, was not due to occur until Friday, Llodra said.
Newtown School Board Chairwoman Debbie Leidlein said she was, "very relieved demolition of the old school is starting so a new school can be built."
The new school is expected to open by December 2016. Town voters last month accepted a state grant of $49.3 million to demolish the school and build a new one on the same site with a different entrance site and driveway.
Sandy Hook School pupils have been attending a school in neighboring Monroe since the shootings.
(Editing by Scott Malone, Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)
- school shootings