Newtown Weighs Fate of School Where 26 Died

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -

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 the victims killed Dec. 14. Others believe the school should be renovated and the areas where the killings occurred removed.

Those appear to be the two prevailing proposals as the community prepares for public hearings on the school’s fate Sunday afternoon and Jan. 18 at Newtown High School. Town officials are also planning private meetings with the victims’ families.

One of Newtown’s selectmen, Jim Gaston, said the building’s future has become a popular topic of discussion around town.

It’s a bittersweet discussion for parents and former students who have many good memories of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I’m very torn,” said Laurie Badick, whose children attended the school several years ago. “Sandy Hook school meant the world to us before this happened. … I have my memories in my brain and in my heart, so the actual building, I think the victims need to decide what to do with that.”

Susan Gibney, who lives in Sandy Hook, said she purposely doesn’t drive by the school because it’s too disturbing. She believes the building should be torn down.

“I wouldn’t want to have to send my kids back to that school,” said Gibney. “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, 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 Southbury resident said.

Until Newtown decides what to do, Sandy Hook students will continue attending a school renovated specially for them seven miles away in a neighboring town.

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.