NEWTOWN, Conn. — Talk about Sandy Hook Elementary School is turning from last month's massacre to the future, with differing opinions on whether students and staff should ever return to the building where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators.
Some Newtown residents say the school should be demolished and a memorial built on the property in honor of those killed Dec. 14. Others think the school should be renovated and the areas where the killings occurred removed. That's what happened at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., after the 1999 mass shooting.
Those appear to be the two prevailing proposals as the community begins discussing the school's fate. A public meeting on the building's future drew about 200 people to Newtown High School on Sunday afternoon, with another meeting set for Friday.
Sunday's meeting was an emotional gathering with many speaking in favor of keeping the school. Although opinions were mixed, most agreed that the Sandy Hook children and teachers should stay together. They've been moved to a school building about seven miles away in a neighboring town that has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"I have two children who had everything taken from them," said Audrey Bart, who has two children at Sandy Hook who weren't injured in the shooting. "The Sandy Hook Elementary School is their school. It is not the world's school. It is not Newtown's school. We cannot pretend it never happened, but I am not prepared to ask my children to run and hide. You can't take away their school."
But fellow Sandy Hook parent Stephanie Carson said she couldn't imagine ever sending her son back to the building.
"I know there are children who were there who want to go back," she said. "But the reality is, I've been to the new school where the kids are now, and we have to be so careful just walking through the halls. They are still so scared."
Mergim Bajraliu, a senior at Newtown High School, attended Sandy Hook, and his sister is a fourth-grader there. He said the school should stay as it is, and a memorial for the victims should be built there.
"We have our best childhood memories at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and I don't believe that one psychopath — who I refuse to name — should get away with taking away any more than he did on Dec. 14," he said.
Police said Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother at the home they shared in Newtown before opening fire with a semiautomatic rifle at the school and killing himself as police arrived.
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 have a final plan by March.