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Shooting Occurred at School with Shining Reputation

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- On Friday tragedy struck at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut as a mass shooting left 27 people dead, including 20 children. But before the shooting, it was simply an extraordinary school.

With its small class sizes and reputation as one of Connecticut's top schools, Sandy Hook Elementary School is the jewel of Newtown, Conn.

With almost all perfect scores from reviewers on school-rating website, the school is a magnet for young families who endure long drives to and from Hartford or New Haven so their kids can be educated here.

"Husbands will sacrifice the commute just to come to Newtown," said Barbara Frey, a local realtor.

Caitlin Tefft, 21, went to Sandy Hook for six years as a little girl.

"It's a small school, but it was just really important to me and really important to my development," she said.

While the town is idyllic and the school offers a warm embrace to its approximately 450 kindergarteners through fourth-graders, Tefft remembered how prepared they were for a tragedy like Friday's, holding drills in the very classrooms so terrorized during the emergency.

"The teacher would lock the door and shut off the lights," she said. "You had to be quiet and not talk, which is really hard for kids, especially when they think it's not real. But I think most of them knew that something was really serious this time."

In 2009, a parent submitted a review of Sandy Hook on that said, "All of my 5 children have done well, overcome obstacles with the stellar teaching staff, and have always felt valued at Sandy Hook School. Every staff member holds the bar as high for themselves as they do for the students. There has always been a family like atmosphere, highly personable as well as professional. The school motto 'think you can, work hard, get smart, be kind' is integrated into all areas, and it shows!"

Another reviewer praised the harmonious way the school reflected the diversity in the Newtown area.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio