Newtown Opening Conversation on Fate of Sandy Hook Elementary

In the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting, a series of "Community Conversations" have been scheduled to gather input from residents on what they think is the best use of the school.

Newtown officials have organized a series of Community Conversations designed specifically to encourage an open discussion about what to do with the Sandy Hook Elementary School building in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting.

The conversations will take place in the Lecture Hall of Newtown High School on the following dates:

  • Jan. 13, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 18, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Due to seating and safety constraints (the Lecture Hall accommodates approximately 150 people), a third gathering, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, will be added if needed.

“The conversations will focus initially on what are the options and opportunities and to hear input from the community,” First Selectman Pat Llodra said Wednesday at a Legislative Council meeting.

Before all the options can fully be assessed, the town has to find out what financial support the state may be able to offer, Llodra pointed out. However, she said, that will be clear before the first conversation.

“It’s critical that we get clarity on what the state is willing to do for us, to what what extent the state has the resources to help us execute a plan,” she said. “That is unknown still but it will be known before the 13th."

Llodra said the intent is for the meetings to be “structured events,” which will be moderated while allowing for the community voice to be heard. "We all agree that is the most important thing here,” she said.

“There’s no road map here, we’re creating these processes as we go along,” she said.

Members of the Board of Selectmen (BOS), Board of Education (BOE), Board of Finance (BOF) and Legislative Council will be on hand to listen and they will ultimately use the community’s input to make a final decision.

Llodra added that the planned Conversations are not the only way to give input. She encouraged residents to call or stop by Town Hall, as well.

“There are no limits on people of the community communicating with any members of the government through any media,” she said. “The purpose of having the community discussion is to have a real opportunity for people to come together.”

Even before the Community Conversations were organized the fate of Sandy Hook Elementary has been a topic on many residents' minds. Immediately following the shooting, which claimed the life of 20 students and six educators, parents began to question whether their children would ever feel comfortable returning to the school after witnessing such horrific violence there.

“No amount of time could make it OK to go back in that school,” said Lisa Keane, a resident of Glen Road in Sandy Hook and the mother of a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old who attends Hawley School.

Another Sandy Hook resident, Gary Zemola, said, "The best thing to do is raze that school and make it a park."

"Tear it down" has been another common phrase from residents over the past few weeks. Some have noted, though, that whether a new school is built — on the existing Sandy Hook grounds or elsewhere — should also be considered from a strategic perspective that takes into account student enrollment.

Indeed, as Newtown faces declining enrollment the possible closure of a school has been discussed several times over the past few years and as recently as October at a Board of Education meeting.

Other residents have noted that, unlike many Fairfield County towns, Newtown is in the favorable position of having ample property on which it could build a new school, including the Fairfield Hills Campus, if that is in fact the consensus reached.

In the meantime, as the Community Conversation begins, Sandy Hook Elementary remains closed as a crime scene while the police investigation continues. And Sandy Hook students will finish out the year in neighboring Monroe, at a school formerly called Chalk Hill.

What do you think the town should do with Sandy Hook Elementary School?

Les January 08, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Can we discuss this at a later date, say sometime in March? It's just too soon.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com January 08, 2013 at 02:46 AM
I am wondering why we are having this discussion so soon. Give us all some time to heal.
Sam Mihailoff January 08, 2013 at 04:06 AM
fire up the presses call the TV stations... Bruce and I agree
Michael Cragin January 08, 2013 at 12:19 PM
at this point.....5 weeks.......many in the town will continue to grieve.....and just as many or more..will choose to move on.....its how humans deal with tragedy....Sadly both approaches will have little tolerance for the other....that is ALSO human nature
Da Face! January 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Thank you, Michael. You have said what I wanted to say, but could not find the proper words for. If you need to grieve, and this conversation bothers you, then don't log on, and scroll to these comments. This is how others grieve.
Jodi Markowsky January 08, 2013 at 01:54 PM
It is NOT too soon to talk about long-term solution as to where our kids are going to go to school. That is a source of stress for us SHES parents, it is a gigantic source of stress right now for me. I don't want my dauther to go to school in Monroe and I don't want her to be split up from everyone she knows. I really hope the decision makers think about the feelings of the survivor kids and what they have had to witness and go through and by splitting them up is the worst thing that can be done in my opinion. Time is running out to get moving on getting a new or renovated location in Sandy Hook in place and the wait is agonizing....
AT January 08, 2013 at 04:05 PM
I hear you Jodi -- I know there will be no one answer that satisfies everyone.. and I totally understand the passion on all sides. Some feel (at least now) they can never walk those halls again, and I don't blame them. But, I just hope its clear what the consequences of each option will be BEFORE a decision is made. My concern with a 'new school' is that would likely be years to come... and I have another child starting next year and I don't want her separated from her older brother. And I couldn't agree more about splitting these kids up via redistricting or something like that, I feel like that would just be cruel. I can only speak for our family and my son does want to go back. We have talked about it, and he asked simply, "It's a school, what else would it be?" I asked him what comes to mind when he thinks about that school, and he goes through funny tales and memories. (And he was just across the hall so he heard and saw more than most.) We talked about Dawn and he smiled and told me she once wore a princess costume to school! I saw a video on the Columbine "take back our school" rally when they reopened in Sept - 6 months after their tragedy, it was very moving. Personally, we want it back. That madman took enough from these kids already, I don't want to give him their school too. I would echo the sentiment to consult child mental health professionals as part of this process. I know with adults, they do very often return as part of the healing process.
L Smith January 08, 2013 at 04:34 PM
I do think SH parents definitely need they're voices heard, everyone in Newtown has a right to attend any meeting about this tragedy, even those without children currently in the schools, or even those without children. I suggest getting there early as an excellent way to insure gaining admittance to the meetings.
Fred January 08, 2013 at 07:30 PM
L Smith - Might you be aware of how it can be logistically difficult for those with children of elementary school age to get free time to attend a meeting without the children. We are not the ones best suited to compete for a seat in a first come first serve basis. It is no different from the Obama speech where the "code red" dialer" asked for those without children from SHE to not attend - they were there in droves - felt like false advertising to those of us with children in the school. It is what it is though - all of the interest from local and elsewhere has been a mixed blessing for those of us in the vortex.
Desiree Galassi January 08, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Bruce, I sympathize with what you are saying. We have yet to catch our breath here and the emotions will be raw as many ideas come to the surface. The parents at Sandy Hook, teachers and administrators need reassurance as to where they will be going come September. Unless they will occupy the same (unaltered) space, the process (whether reworking the current space, rebuilding, redistricting) will take time, resources and planning. The reality is that many, many of us are not ready for anything right now let alone making decisions like this but the end of the year will creep up on us quickly with such a time sensitive and important decision. I think that these talks are meant to be an opportunity to get a first read into the community sentiment. I just hope that our leaders are prepared to respond to question, "Who will be making the decision?".
Desiree Galassi January 09, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Fred, you make a great point. Ideally, the SHS parents should have a private audience with leaders so they have a chance to speak in a more intimate environment. Maybe this could be done during school hours so at least 1 parent or guardian could attend. Your input is critical.
Karyn Maki January 09, 2013 at 10:36 PM
To All Residents of Newtown: Greetings. I live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul and have been reading your Patch site since December. I know you have been overwhelmed with communications from all over the world since Dec. 14th so I have waited until now to post a comment. I grew up traveling to Connecticut for family visits. My Dad grew up in Waterbury and still has family living there. Although I do not personally know anyone in Newtown, Connecticut holds a very special place in my heart, and many warm and loving childhood memories. Please accept my deepest sympathy for your terrible loss. In reading your Patch site, it is clear to me that Newtown is a community of great strength and resiliency. It reaffirms my faith in humanity; this world seems to be full of unbelievable pain and destruction as of late and we need each other to keep us strong. Where has the morale compass gone? As far as what to do with Sandy Hook School, a park sounds like a wonderful idea. I can just picture it on a summer day, with beautiful flowering trees in memory of those whose lives were lost. The grounds once marred by tragedy should become a place of peace. Let me close with this quote, inspired by an Eskimo Legend; “Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven, Where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down Upon us to let us know they are happy.”
Allison Koziol January 10, 2013 at 06:49 PM
What I'd like to happen is to consider the feelings of the survivors. My child was there that day. She's doing what's necessary by going to Chalk Hill but she wants to know when she gets to go back to "her school". When I ask her why she says, "Because it's MY school and it's better." At the same time, her five siblings who all attended that school are sad at the prospect that their beloved school may be torn down. They feel that in some ways it erases a part of their past.
Theresa R January 10, 2013 at 11:02 PM
I think a new school, at a new location, combing SHE & Hawley districts is a fantastic one.
Michael Cragin January 11, 2013 at 12:32 PM
if it quacks like a duck.....looks a duck.....and walks like a duck...its a duck.....That looks like a school...was a school........so its a school......Add windows..and small garden areas......and low and behold......use it as a school again.......just like columbine etc.....I cannot possibly see it being leveled ...for a park......where 26 people were butchered..................................its a school
Da Face! January 11, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Tony January 11, 2013 at 06:44 PM
It should be torn down and become a memorial so the families always have a place to go anytime of the day and the town can begin to heal. How can anyone ask these children and teachers to ever go back to that place. People close to the school will want it to remain open(Newtown Strong, etc...). Emotions cannot decide it's fate. We must do what is best for the community long-term. People will not want to move to Sandy Hook because of the school if it remains open. The people living outside of Newtown did not know how wonderful S.H.E.S. and Newtown was before Dec. 14th. Unfortunately it will always be known as a place of sadness and tragedy for people living outside of Newtown. We must quickly act to do whatever it takes to heal. Keeping the school and name will always be a sad reminder and thus making it hard for us to heal and could prevent new families from moving to our town. As a parent of a 1st grader in Newtown, I for one would never want my child to go back to that school.
JED January 11, 2013 at 08:58 PM
I strongly disagree for the school to be demolished. It's not cost effective and the shooter wins. As one person said - have a memorial in those rooms affected and the rest remains a school. Or use it for something else for 4 years, then reopen as a school after remodeling and adding other security features.
M January 12, 2013 at 01:54 PM
Is there a single person here that has considered the feelings of the SHS faculty? Return to a building where we feared for our lives, for the lives of our sweet students. Where we huddled with our students, while hearing gun shots and screaming. Where we ran down the halls. Where we lost precious babies and amazing friends. If that building stays as a school how are we to return and feel at peace? Please think of everyone involved when voicing your opinions, especially if you are a person who will never have to walk through the door of that building.
Fred January 12, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Tony - I may be missing something here - I agree with what you said about "Emotions cannot decide it's fate" but your analysis is completely emotional. Rational thinking leads you to keep the school, unless you are discussing enrollment. If we are discussing enrollment, why did he who's name must not be spoken leave Sandy Hook with the short straw. We are not talking about a consumable, like a vehicle or dinner, it is a building on a very nice parcel of land. An elementary school next to a fire house off the main road, sounds ideal. Emotions are what lead you to letting a freak occurrence throw it away.
AT January 12, 2013 at 03:13 PM
If you compare security and protocols in place at SHS vs. schools in the area, the state and the country -- they were actually a lot better than most. We don't live in gang territory, there aren't cartel kidnappings on the street -- this tragedy has nothing to do with our zip code. It could have happened anywhere. Look up the population profile of Dunblane, Cokeville or Columbine, they were also peaceful, small, tight knit communities that never could have imagined such horrors. "Burying it" because you are afraid of the brand it carries is not a reason to raise the white flag and surrender our school. As I've said before, I certainly respect that others (who where there or kids were there) don't feel they could go back, and I am sensitive to their perspectives, but I am starting to lose my patience with the people worried about their property values. You want a reputation out of this - let it be of one strength, unity, support and resilience. And please think before you project your anxiety on to your children. I am not asking my son to go back to THAT school.. HE is asking when he can go back to HIS school.
AT January 12, 2013 at 03:43 PM
PS - In the crisis/trauma meetings, the mental health folks keep talking about healing in terms of moving to 'controlling the memory' from 'letting the memory control us.' I know it will take a long time, but you say SHS will always be known as a place of sadness. It is also a place of heroism, bravery and selflessness. We'd all like to think our teachers love our kids as their own - but the staff there proved it with their own lives and those still with us can be credited for saving countless others.
P Celtic January 12, 2013 at 04:37 PM
I agree Jody, accept for the four years, I say sooner and my son was as close as could get without losing him. Maybe the people who don't want to go back can take there kids to other elementary schools, depending on their number. The school was meant to be around for a lot longer than the children in their at present. As for Tony's comment, unless I am missing something, is the emotional response, unless he is referring to enrollment. Emotion is the only thing that causes the "I would never go in the building comment". What did the building do to anyone? The shooter is gone. If he is referring to enrollment, it feels like the town is trying to use the event as a way to stick SHE with the short straw in "which elementary should close" debate.
dan January 13, 2013 at 12:27 AM
I agree....if it gets torn down then it needs to be a peaceful place with the sounds of children playing so our angels can hear them
dan January 13, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Personally I agree...the families need to weigh in...if a school is needed...FFH would be perfect. i would also put the new police station in there as well when the town approves it.
Richard Hooker January 13, 2013 at 05:27 PM
How about instead of people bickering, and arguing, We choose Love. This school will be debated in a NHS discussion, and I personally, look forward to giving my input on this subject.
Wayne Addessi January 13, 2013 at 05:50 PM
Simply put if I may, build at FFH and begun a new chapter there for all of us. FFH could be the idealic setting to unite Reed kids, NYA, all families of town . This will begin to bring so many more to the FFH area along with countless benefits. Sand Hook School can become a memorial as so many of us want. My heart will always ache, my tears continue to flow.
Clarissa Jean Draper January 14, 2013 at 12:58 PM
My idea was to take the school down (or at lest the front entrance area) and build a memorial consisting of little pillars in a circle the height of each child with a picture on the front and a little book on top telling about them and what they liked or wanted to be (all weather proof). Celebrating the lives. In front of the circle would be a semi-circle for the teachers and principle who tried to protect them. Also, with pictures and stories of what they were like. The memorial would be right where it happened. If the school is entirely torn down, then a park could be put in its place. It could be called "Circle of Dreams Memorial Park".
Darrell January 14, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Teachers should also have input as well.
Newtown mom January 14, 2013 at 07:03 PM
I don't know how the numbers will pan out but would it be possible to allow those who want to return to Sandy Hook to go back to a remodeled building and allow those who do not want to go back to attend Hawley?


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