NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Newtown officials are meeting to debate what to do with the Sandy Hook Elementary School building, where 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down in a December massacre.
The Sandy Hook School Building Task Force, which meets Friday night, has narrowed the options down to two: renovating or rebuilding on the existing school site, or constructing a new school on nearby property. Whatever choice is made, a new or renovated school won’t be ready by the start of the next school year.
The task force, which includes 28 local elected officials, may vote on a recommendation to the local school board or postpone a decision to another meeting on May 10.
Sandy Hook Elementary School hasn’t housed students since the Dec. 14 killings. The 430 surviving students have been attending a renovated school in the neighboring town of Monroe that has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Town residents have expressed mixed opinions on what should happen to the school building.
“I wouldn’t want to have to send my kids back to that school,” said Susan Gibney, who has three children in high school who didn’t attend the Sandy Hook school and believes the school should be torn down. “I just don’t see how the kids could get over what happened there.”
Fran Bresson, a retired police officer who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School in the 1950s, wanted the school to reopen, but he thought the hallways and classrooms where staff and students were killed should be demolished.
Residents of towns where other mass shootings occurred have grappled with the same dilemma. Some have renovated, some have demolished.
Columbine High School in Colorado, where two student gunmen killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher in 1999, reopened several months afterward. Crews removed the library, where most of the victims died, and replaced it with an atrium.
Virginia Tech converted a classroom building where a student gunman killed 30 people in 2007 into a peace studies and violence prevention center. And an Amish community in Pennsylvania tore down the West Nickel Mines Amish School and built a new school a few hundred yards away after a gunman killed five girls there in 2006.
On the morning of Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, opened fire with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults. He earlier had fatally shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Newtown home, and he killed himself as police arrived at the school.
Police have not disclosed possible motives for the killings. Law enforcement officials have said Adam Lanza showed an interest in other mass killings and played violent video games.