Sandy Hook School's Fate: More Community Voices

Parents and community members offered a wide variety of opinions at a town forum Sunday -- read excerpts from some suggestions.


 at Newtown High School for the first in a series of community forums to determine the fate of Sandy Hook Elementary School building following the school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults. Parents and community members offered a variety of opinions, including the excerpts below.

"I'm the father of a Sandy Hook first grader, but also two four-year-olds who will be in there in a couple years. My daughter lost her best friend that day, and we lost a close family friend of ours. I'm not going to comment as to what I think should happen to the building. I think there's been a lot of good ideas presented here. But I wanted to make two comments. One, don't redistrict no matter what. Two, let's make a decision. We have to take the appropriate amount of time, I understand that -- we have to get opinions, and everybody's ideas -- a vote, or whatever the appropriate mechanism is to make a decision. Our children need stability. They lost a lot. And the faster we can make a decision ... as to what this school is like and who's going to be there, then they can start look forward and look to the future as well."

-- Glenn Shepherd


"I'm a Sandy Hook School mom. I have a fifth grader who graduated from Sandy Hook last year and a 2nd-grader who was in the building that day. My son wants to go back  to Sandy Hook. He could not understand why we couldn't go back to the building. He does not like Chalk Hill, he spends a lot of time in the hug room and in the nurse's office. Having an upstairs has really been a negative for him, because there's furniture moving above their heads -- there's lots of noises that the kids are not used to in the building. We had an awful lot of triggers for kids who heard things that day ... However, I cannot ask those teachers to go back if they don't want to. I cannot ask friends whose children escaped that day from those two classrooms to go back. If people are going to be traumatized by going back into the building, I can't ask them to. I wonder whether or not we could build a new facility where the field is, and turn the school into a memorial park."

-- Christine Wilford


"My son was directly across from the affected rooms. He saw more and heard more than any child ever should, let alone any person ever should ... His best friend doesn't want to go back, and I would never want to make someone go back that doesn't want to. I also heard him say -- as the banging was happening -- 'I'd be surprised if today was the end of my days.' So I have a seven-year-old who contemplated his death at that moment. And before I came to this meeting, [he asked] 'I'm at Chalk Hill. How long am I going to be there? What's going to happen?' I said, 'The mommies and daddies are going to get together and talk about what's going to happen.' And he looked at me blank. He said, 'What do you mean? It's my school. What else would it be?'

I look at [how much he] took that day. He took their friends. He took their teachers. He took their sense of security. He took their innocence. He took their childhood. I don't want to give him the school ... I'm not saying my answer is right or wrong. I'm looking at it through the eyes of a child who just can't understand what else it could be."

-- Amy Taber, Sandy Hook mother


"I feel so touched and privileged to be among you all today, to hear the heartfelt and heartbroken sharings. To me, the fact that the whole town's heart was broken open -- and the fact it didn't just happen to us, it happened to the whole world -- was something quite remarkable and special. As we listen to all these different ideas, it sounds like they're in conflict. It's a conundrum. I think back to the history of this town, which has been at times very divisive. I would hate to see a 52-48% vote on what to do. In this broken-open space we're in, I think so much more is now possible. Whether we like it not, this town has changed. We can't go back to what things were ... Things might be possible now that nobody in this room has yet thought of. It's so raw still, it hasn't settled in, and there's a pressure to act and resolve and move forward. 

My wish for us is that we stay in this decision until we find something that not only are we thrilled and delighted as a town that we've come up with something that works for us, but that when the world thinks of Newtown two years from now or five years from now ... they don't think of this as just where something awful happened. They think of this place where something amazing and beautiful happened. That's the legacy. That's the way we truly create a memorial to honor those lives that we lost."

-- Ben Roberts, Hawleyville resident

Jamie January 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM
For God Sake... Please do what the Parents of those children want done... if they feel they need to revisit then let them, if they feel they can not and its too painful then take the building down. It should be a decion of the Parents of the children taken. Personally, i would never send a school aged child of mine there after that incident, no way.
jen m January 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM
Also the parents of those children who escaped and living the events everyday should be highly considered as well. Plus in all respect, it should be heard more from those current and future families and people districted to the school area.
Agni Pavlidou Kyprianou January 15, 2013 at 01:13 PM
It seems to me that the children think very differently from us adults. That was their school and they loved it. They cannot understand why they shouldn't go back to it. Something that most of us adults would consider unbareable. I stayed away from the meeting on purpose. I am a Sandy Hook resident, but my children belong to Hawley. I feel that out of respect to the Sandy Hook families whose children attend that school, they should decide its fate. I also hope this becomes a majority decision. We have been so united through this that it would be terribly sad to see our town divide now.
Patricia Grace-Farfaglia January 15, 2013 at 02:09 PM
There is a lot of healing in ritual. We need a ceremony that focuses on change and recovery. Renaming the school with a new purpose may help the children cope. We should designate the school as a charter school for pro-social and healthy behaviors. We could call it the Sandy Hook "Resilience" school.
M Life January 15, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Kids are kids and its sweet they want to go back. But as parents we don't let grade school children make the calls. They'd eat chocolate cake for breakfast lunch and diner. :) that building is just that, a building. No way people should be asked to stomach going back there! Teachers, support staff, police, parents, or teachers! A new school with a memorial near by for parents to visit is the call. Look at 9/11 just because we didnt erect the towers back doesnt mean we lost. The memorial is beautiful and the goverments should consider something similar in a park with 26 steps leading to a memorial that gives the parents, students and town people something to be proud of.
M Life January 15, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Part 2, i could never send my kids back. I get dizzy and faint even thinking it. Its just to much.
Michelle Stevens January 15, 2013 at 03:57 PM
The parents are the people we should be listening to above ANYBODY else. They know and have been exposed to first hand knowledge and vulnerabilities that came along with this horrible tragedy. To dismiss them or their feelings/children's feelings, would be the biggest mistake we could make as a society.
Erin January 15, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Seems there will be a split in what to do here but hopeful all will be happy in the end. That alone will be a huge hurdle. Of course considering those closest to these events is a given but I feel if we are stating we are in this together then having these open forums is the right thing to do to hear all opinions and options. The more we speak on this as painful as some thoughts and discussions may be we know where our neighbors, friends, community members, and family stand. Personally I understand hearing the kids is important and parents making the final verdict even more so....having said that I think a memorial in place of the old school location is very respectful and since the school was tucked away almost on a campus like setting ...can we rebuild a building in that area closer to Treadwell Park and have a walking trail to the school memorial and great use of the park? Just a thought at the top of my head...thought that would cover respect of those whom lost their loved ones that day, those whom are hesitant and can't imagine using same facility, and those whom want to return will be in same area with added perks of a new school close enough to home:)). Understanding this will cost let's start suggesting this to the organizations and government officials who have promised their 100% assistance.
Jasmine January 15, 2013 at 06:33 PM
I am pretty mortified by the senseless tragedy that happened to the Sandy Hook community. How does one pick up the pieces and move on after such unbearable losses? No parent should lose their child, especially in this way. No child should lose their sibling or friend... ever, and never under such horrific circumstances. Thinking of how frightened the surviving youngsters must be, I can't even imagine. The younsters have a tough road ahead! Let the Sandy Hook parents make the decision about the schools fate. They alone can choose what is best for their children. I pray for healing for you and your families. Yet with scars cut so deeply, words like "I am sorry for your loss" seem to fall far from the mark. But truly... I am sorry for your loss. Much Love to you, your family, friends, and community. May you find peace someday
Karl Hogquist January 15, 2013 at 07:00 PM
My perspective on the Sandy Hook School disposition is it should remain essentially as is. The reasoning is razing the school sopresses and denies the reality. Consequently, the experience will be a subconscious drag one the lives of those affected. I suggest appropriate architectural and landscape remodeling, creation of outdoor and indoor memorials, and institution of program(s) teaching relationships with one's self and others. A possible teaching is one's purpose in life is to love unconditionally, to seek knowledge and to be in service. Karl Hogquist
Tom Joad January 15, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Why on earth would we need a charter school. Sandy Hook is an elementary school. What was or is wrong with the school that we need to completely gut it and start over? This is about a physical plant. People are attracted to Newtown because of the public schools-they are quite wonderful. There is no need for a charter school, because Newtown's schools work. The suggestion of closing a school in favor of a Charter School is offensive to all of the educators at Sandy Hook School and the entire Newtown School District.
Steve Bowers January 15, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Being a sandy hook alumni I have mixed emotions having a lot of memories there, but I do agree that we should do exactly what the parents of the students there now say they want done
Richard Hooker January 15, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Something that most people are overlooking...we need to acknowledge the STAFF and what their feelings are. You cannot and ABSOLUTELY should not force a teacher to go back if they are not able to do so. I will NOT put a teacher, our protectors, in more harms way by putting them in a position where they would not be able to function. Children are resilient, Adults are a much different item.
Gordon Dunn January 16, 2013 at 02:16 AM
I have 2 kids that currently attend SHS. I initially thought it would be fine to reface the front of the school where the activity took place and keep the rest of the school intact, similar to Columbine. However, since the school is dated back to the 50’s it would seem that now is the time to start over. I would suggest that the new school placement be in a spot with improved street visibility and closer neighbors. Fairfield Hills would seem to be a good fit. I’m appreciative of the use of Chalk Hill but we all know this is a short term solution. The goal would be to get the SHS students back in Sandy Hook / Newtown as soon as possible. I and many others ask that the SHS children stay unified in their own school, as it would be important for SHS to have an everlasting legacy. A new school takes time and money to build, but with some added construction assistance and funding coming in from all parts of the world maybe this time could be cut short. Is it a stretch to reach out to a group like ABC’s extreme makeover to consider coming in to build this school in a shorter period of time? Since this is a national story, I’m sure the network would certainly have to consider.
Tom Joad January 16, 2013 at 01:56 PM
For realz? We have been inundated and overrun by the media for the last month. Why on earth would we invite ourselves to be exploited by a reality makeover show? Did you see the Stone River Grill has shut down? No doubt due to the media and all of the out of town gawkers loitering in downtown Sandy Hook. We do not need more people from out of town doing an extreme makeover. We need less of that. Let the kids go to school and be left alone.
Gordon Dunn January 16, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Your last line leaves many unanswered questions. If only it was as easy as "let the kids go back to school" we wouldn't be having this debate. I don't want to see my kids travel to monroe and wait years to get into a new school. SHS is old and many don't want to go back. You like to critique but offer no solutions.
Brandie Ovitt January 16, 2013 at 04:46 PM
The idea of turning the school into a memorial place is a great idea., it would allow the children as they wish to revisit when they feel they need too.. Some children and parents may never be ready to go back there if its reopened and used as it was, and this should not create controversy .. It's their town, their school, and their decision as to what happens .. I'm sure together they will do what is best .
Tom Joad January 16, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Pardon me, I was unaware I was supposed to offer multiple solutions. I take issue with putting our children on a dopey reality show. I happen to fully agree with every single other point you have made.
Tony January 16, 2013 at 08:07 PM
I respectfully disagree. We owe the parents a place to memorialize their children and any other resources to help them as needed. We also owe the people of Newtown a plan to make all the schools safe. SHES is one of 4 elementary schools and SandyHook is part of Newtown. The town(tax payers) and BOE needs to decide on the fate of the school for the good of the community and the town. The schools are what attracts people to Newtown and they need to understand the pros/cons of keeping/removing the school for both the short and long-term. Sandy Hook Elem School, to the outside world, will only known as a place of horrific acts. We have to consider the impact of keeping the school and it's name and what impact it will have on new families moving to Newtown. I strongly believe that the families of SHES will not be able to reach a consensus. Some will want their kids to stay, others will move and yet others will sue the town. It will be impossible to make everyone happy and that is why the BOE ultimately has to decide what is right for all of the Newtown school system.
Robert Zatulskis January 16, 2013 at 10:52 PM
I don't know if it makes more sense to tear the building down or to remodel/renovate but I think a school should be built on that site and it should be the showpiece for school safety. Let it be the benchmark for how other schools are put together. I don't know how long it would take to build something like that but it would make sense to do it sooner rather than later so that 1) the sandy hook student can go back to a sandy hook school and 2) the momentum of people looking for a way to help can be translated into action to complete the project quickly. It's just my opinion but I think this is how Newtown can stand up and show everyone how to move forward from such a horrible tragedy.
mon January 17, 2013 at 12:42 PM
My heart breaks for the residents of Newton, it is such a difficult decision. Being a teacher in Canada I am touched and moved by how your community has come together. I sit here and try to think of a solution and the only solution I can think of is you community is coming together and showing the world how resilient you are. May God Bless all of you.
Ed Pray January 27, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Bless you Part 2. love somebody


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