The 28-person task force met on Friday to discuss emergency issues such as land use, eminent domain, grief, traffic and even the two mother ducks who lay their eggs at the school every year. The panel has come to two options: the current site or one about 200 yards down the road.
As Reuters reports, the school, which has been closed since the bloody rampage, would be teared down and reconstructed at an estimated cost of $56 million in the next 17 to 21 months. The name of the rebuilt building would retain its name.
Newtown officials had said the Sandy Hook School Task Force was believed to reach a decision until Friday to avoid a one-year delay in the project. June 7 is set as a deadline to apply for state and federal funding that local officials hope will provide the bulk of the project’s costs.
George Benson, Newtown’s director of planning and land use, before the meeting had estimated that the cost of rebuilding the school would have been about $47 million.
A former student opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, killing 20 students and six adults before killing himself.
Points of view of parents, teachers, residents and victims of the rampage have divided over whether the school should be renovated, rebuilt on the same site or on a parcel about a mile away on the campus of the town’s Municipal Complex.
“We lost 20 children, and 26 people overall, and to tear the school down would mean that (Lanza) is winning,” volunteer firefighter Peter Barresi said. He was among the first emergency personnel to arrive on the scene that day.
Barresi, who has a son, joined those parents who insisted on renovation of Sandy Hook School building rather than forcing their children to attend school outside the Sandy Hook district.
“Call me crazy, call me insensitive, but I would go back to that school tomorrow,” said Mergim Bajraliu, a local high school student, who rushed to the school that morning and who, with his two siblings, went to Sandy Hook. One is still a student at Sandy Hook. Mr. Bajraliu added: “The least we could do for those kids is to bring them home.”
Neanwhile, other parents suggested that the school shoukd be moved from the site of the December reampage to a new location, saying they could not bear to return to the existing building or even the site of the shooting.
Selectman James Gaston, a member of the task force, said before the vote on Friday “it would be a better choice to build the school at a location off-site,” but he revealed to reporters that he stands for rebuilding the school on the existing grounds.
E. Patricia Llodra, the first selectwoman and a member of the task force, said that the process would show that no solution can be reached without pain.
“We all wanted a wonderful solution that would satisfy everyone and we realized that wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “But I think we reached a point where we could make a positive decision that we feel is the right thing to do.”
“It’s going to be a happy place full of children and learning,” Ms. Llodra said. “We need to make this work, and we will. We will.”