The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 14, 2013

Newtown debates future of school where 26 died

(Continued)

Fran Bresson, a retired police officer who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School in the 1950s, wants the school to reopen, but he thinks the hallways and classrooms where staff and students were killed should be demolished.

"To tear it down completely would be like saying to evil, 'You've won,'" the 63-year-old Southbury resident said.

Residents of towns where mass shootings occurred have grappled with the same dilemma. Some have renovated, some have demolished.

Columbine High School, where two student gunmen killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher, reopened several months afterward. Crews removed the library, where most of the victims died, and replaced it with an atrium.

On an island in Norway where 69 people — more than half of them teenagers attending summer camp — were killed by a gunman in 2011, extensive remodeling is planned. The main building, a cafeteria where 13 of the victims died, will be torn down.

Virginia Tech converted a classroom building where a student gunman killed 30 people in 2007 into a peace studies and violence prevention center.

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.

Newtown First Selectwoman E. Patricia Llodra said that in addition to the community meetings, the town is planning private gatherings with the victims' families to talk about the school's future. She said the aim is to finalize a plan by March.

"I think we have to start that conversation now," Llodra said. "It will take many, many months to do any kind of school project. We have very big decisions ahead of us. The goal is to bring our students home as soon as we can."

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