Columbine High School in Colorado — where two students killed 12 classmates and one teacher before dying by suicide 20 years ago — will not be torn down and rebuilt, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Superintendent Jason Glass of Jeffco Public Schools.
Instead the Littleton, Colorado, high school, where about 1,700 students in grades 9 through 12 are currently enrolled, will implement “changes to enhance the security and privacy of the site, including the creation of an improved and defined perimeter around the building,” he said.
The discussion about replacing the original school was driven “by the number of ‘unauthorized individuals’ (some 2,401 as reported in the Colorado Sun) who came onto Columbine’s grounds this past school year,” stated Glass.
In a previous letter, Glass had noted that, annually, “hundreds of individuals seeking to enter the school and reconnect with the 1999 murders” come to the attention of local law enforcement. “Most of them are there to satisfy curiosity or a macabre, but harmless, interest in the school. For a small group of others, there is a potential intent to do harm,” he said.
In April, for example, the FBI reported that a high school student who was “infatuated” with the Columbine shooting had traveled from Florida to Colorado and made credible threats. Later, the student — 18-year-old Sol Pais — was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Before making a decision on whether to rebuild, Glass analyzed survey data collected in June by Jeffco Public Schools, evaluated social media site commentary, read opinion statements and had face-to-face discussions, he said.
The survey raised the question: “Should we rebuild Columbine High School, further back from the street on which it presently sits, and redesign the building so as to remove the attraction as the site of the 1999 murders?”
About 3,968 of the 6,962 respondents (57%) “had negative initial reactions,” the survey found. “Similarly, 55% felt that a potential Columbine rebuild was ‘not really important’ or ‘not important at all’.”
“Those opposed to a rebuild expressed concerns about wastefulness and an unnecessary tax burden, as well as a belief that a rebuild would not fix the identified issues of unauthorized access by curious or troubled individuals,” the survey noted.
The rebuild discussion, which was “emotional and complex,” brought forth additional options and proposals, said Glass.
The new plan, then, is “to create a classic and stately appearance for the school that the community will be proud of,” while shoring up the school’s defenses, said Glass. Security and privacy enhancements will be funded by existing district resources and not require additional dollars from taxpayers.
He concluded, “It is clear to me that no consensus direction exists to rebuild the school.”