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Columbine High School won’t be torn down, replaced

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GOLDEN, Colo. -- Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Jason Glass said in a letter Wednesday that "no consensus direction exists" to tear down and replace the buildings at Columbine High School where a 1999 massacre took place.

In June, the district sent a letter from Glass that said reconstructing the school was being considered because Columbine had become a magnet for those interested in the shooting that left 12 students and one teacher dead.

Glass said last month that every year, the district and law enforcement make contact with hundreds of people who are interested in the shooting and want to visit the school at 6201 S. Pierce St.

In fact, last school year, more than 2,400 people tried to visit the property.

A survey was done to get feedback from the Columbine community.

More than half, 57%, of the 6,962 respondents had a negative initial reaction to replacing the school, while 55% felt a potential rebuild was "not really important" or "not important at all."

"Based on our analysis of survey data collected, evaluating commentary on this issue that has taken place on various social media sites, reading opinion statements published in a variety of formats, and engaging in face-to-face discussions on this matter, I do not believe there is sufficient support to move forward with a proposal to rebuild the school," Glass wrote.

Instead, Glass said the district will increase security outside Columbine, which sits on a busy street and next to a large park.

"We're looking at some perimeters and establishing some greater security and privacy around the building," Glass said. "We’ll be looking at fencing or other sort of brick barricades around the school ... and also do that in a way that’s stately and classic and makes the community proud of the way the building looks."

Many in the Columbine community had mixed feelings about the idea of tearing down the school and rebuilding it.

Craig Scott was a Columbine sophomore in 1999. His older sister Rachel was killed in the shooting.

"I just felt that Columbine was already a very nice school," Scott said. "Yes, it does have some issues. ... To tear it down I think would be a terrible waste."

Scott said he thinks Rachel would feel the same.

He now travels the country with his Value-Up program, talking about strengthening school climate and mental health. Scott hopes to present at Columbine this upcoming school year.

School safety experts have recommended tearing down the buildings where the shootings took place, but the district wanted input from the community before going forward.

To rebuild the school, the district would have had to ask taxpayers for an additional $60 million to $70 million in funding.

Instead, the district is taking Columbine's allotment of $15 million from last year's bond and increasing security, as well as upgrading the school's lighting, temperature control, flooring, walls and more.

The proposal would have rebuilt much of the school, but the name, mascot and colors of Columbine would be retained.

Full letter from Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Jason Glass:

Last month, we initiated a conversation in our community about the future of Columbine High School. The timing 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 and the planned $15 million renovation of the current site using bond funds from the 2018 5B ballot question.

We put forth an idea in the Jeffco community for consideration: 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?

The ensuing discussion both locally and joined by those around the country, was emotional and complex and I want to express my appreciation and gratitude for the honest, respectful, and civil way these discussions took place in the Columbine and larger Jeffco communities.

In putting forth the idea of rebuilding the school, Jeffco Public Schools was careful not to say what we should do. Rather, rebuilding the school was presented as an option we should explore. In the course of our discussions, this option was considered and evaluated and other options and proposals also came forward.

In June, we issued a public statement and a brief survey to our stakeholders about rebuilding Columbine. Based on our analysis of survey data collected, evaluating commentary on this issue that has taken place on various social media sites, reading opinion statements published in a variety of formats, and engaging in face-to-face discussions on this matter, I do not believe there is sufficient support to move forward with a proposal to rebuild the school.

While this concept has supporters and merits, there are also valid concerns that were raised. It is clear to me that no consensus direction exists to rebuild the school.

Still, while Columbine High School is now arguably one of the safest schools in the world, the “unauthorized individuals” problem at the school must be addressed. In addition to the great lengths that our safety and security team take to address each "unauthorized individual," more supports are necessary to mitigate the impact on the school. Therefore, we will be implementing changes to enhance the security and privacy of the site, including the creation of an improved and defined perimeter around the building.

While final plans have yet to be determined, it is our goal to create a classic and stately appearance for the school that the community will be proud of. The school already has an existing “Design Advisory Group” working on planned improvements as part of the 5B bond program and we will use these individuals to advise us on creating the perimeter and other security and privacy enhancements.

We will fund these security and privacy enhancements from existing district resources within our capital fund and will not be asking taxpayers for additional dollars. The planned 5B renovations and improvements to Columbine High School will not be reduced because of these additions and we will not take funds from other schools planned bond improvements.

I deeply appreciate the engagement and respect our community has shown in navigating this difficult question. I understand the prevailing wishes of the Jeffco community on this matter and we will work to meet those, keeping Columbine a great school and making it even more secure going forward.

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