News Column

Newtown Residents Ponder Future of Sandy Hook School Building

Jan 14, 2013

By Gary Stoller

Thirty days after their town was scarred by tragedy, Newtown residents gathered Sunday to discuss what to do with Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed in a Dec. 14 shooting rampage.

More than 300 people attended the discussion in the Newtown High School auditorium, just a few minutes' drive from Sandy Hook school.

For 90 minutes, about 30 residents -- mostly parents whose children survived the shooting -- stood at a microphone and expressed varying ideas: Return students to the school, renovate or raze it, or build a replacement elsewhere. Students are in a temporary school in nearby Monroe.

Some parents said their children want to return to Sandy Hook school as soon as possible. Others said their children were too traumatized.

Speakers suggested building a center dedicated to peace, a park, a memorial or a senior center on the Sandy Hook school property.

Several said the families of those who lost someone in the shootings -- and the school's teachers -- should have a major role in the decision.

Some people fought back tears, and some pleaded with their community to stay united -- or to set a peaceful example for the world -- regardless of what decision about the school is made.

No families who lost someone in the shootings, and no Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers or staff, spoke.

Mergin Bajraliu, whose fourth-grade sister was in the school during the shooting, said some of his "best memories" involve the school and it shouldn't be "knocked down."

Bajraliu, 17, a senior at Newtown High School, went to the school with his mother immediately after the shooting to look for his sister, who escaped safely. He says he saw two children who were killed and has since had trouble sleeping.

Sandy Hook school should be renovated, and a memorial to those who were killed should be built on school property, he said.

"Future children need the same good memories," and "one psychopath should not get away with taking away our school," Bajraliu said. "Razing the school is the weak way out."

Police say Adam Lanza, 20, a former student at the school, killed his mother in their Sandy Hook home, then broke into the school and killed 26 people before committing suicide.

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra, the town's chief executive, said officials have begun meeting with families who lost children in the shootings to get their thoughts on how to proceed. She said similar meetings are planned with Sandy Hook school faculty and staff.

"It is my hope that we will be able to present a recommendation to this community this spring," she said.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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